Success Stories

Relationship Marketing Weekly: BNI’s Dr. Ivan Misner

In this Edition of Relationship Marketing Weekly, I had the pleasure of interviewing the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. We discussed in detail the “24/7/30 System”. This system will allow you establish a powerful routine that will help you to make your networking efforts meaningful and successful.

Kody Bateman: Hello everybody. This is Kody Bateman. Welcome to our Relationship Marketing Weekly Show. We are so excited today. I’m coming to you live from Salt Lake City, Utah and I’m very, very excited about this interview today.

Let me just caution you right now. You need to have a pen. You need to have a pad of paper and take some really good notes today. We have the one and only Dr. Ivan Misner, the Founder of Business Network International, known as BNI.

Ivan, welcome to the show here today.

Ivan Misner: Thanks Kody. It’s great to be on and it’s great talking to you again. It has been a while.

Kody: Oh, it has. It’s an honor to be with you. We had a little pre-show and just kind of got caught up and Ivan has already told me a whole bunch of stories that just really inspire me today. So we will just continue that conversation for everybody else to listen to. I really need to share a little bit about who this guy is.

There’s a lot of people on here today that know you well, Ivan. But there are others who don’t know you well and are just getting familiar with BNI and what you have done over the years. So I really kind of need to share some of your accomplishments here.

Here’s what’s funny is Ivan, he’s a little uncomfortable with this. He’s a very humble guy, which is one of the things I love about him. But guess what, brother. I got to share some of your accomplishments just for a second. So this is Dr. Ivan Misner. He’s coming to us live from his home office in Austin, Texas. He’s known as the Father of Modern Networking. He’s the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Business Network International. This is the world’s largest business networking organization.

Now, I want to share with you some numbers just so you understand the significance of what Ivan has been able to build over the years. He established this. He started in 1985 and have been building it ever since. We’re talking there are 224,000 global members of BNI. This is a huge global organization. It’s – it has – this is as of today – 8138 global chapters.

So each chapter has on average 26 to 30 members. I think it’s the blended average of each chapter. So these chapters are all over the world. Now listen to these numbers.

Now you might think this is just a little social gathering and the BNIs typically meet once a week and some of you may think this is just a little gathering once a week. Let me share with you what they generate.

This is mind-boggling. OK? So in the last 12 months, these chapters have generated 9.5 million referrals that has generated $13.8 billion in business revenue for its members. So this is not just a get-together chapter. This is an organization that gets results from people.

So Ivan, with that, I just want to welcome you to the call. What I would like to do right up front, if you can just tell us a little bit about two things. There are two things I would like to start with. The first is just tell us a little bit about how a chapter works and what is the driving philosophy behind the chapter. Yeah, go ahead.

Ivan: Yeah, happy to do that. By the way, $13.8 billion worth of business and for referrals for our members. Just so you know, Kody, 13.8 billion is the same as the gross domestic product for the country of Lichtenstein.

Kody: OK.

Ivan: OK. It’s a small country, I know. But still how cool is that. You know, we’re generating as much business for a small nation. Now I’m looking for a bigger nation next year. But I think it’s a great start.

So you asked, “What is a chapter and what’s our core philosophy?” So we have 8100 plus chapters. We will have one person per professional category to be in a chapter of BNI. Many chapters have SendOutCards representatives and they’ve been in BNI for many, many years. So it has been a long term great relationship between our two organizations.

We have one person per profession. We get together every week and our sole purpose is to build relationships and pass each other referrals. Our principle core value, we have seven core values and I think the culture eats strategy for breakfast.

The culture is so important in an organization and I know SendOutCards has a fantastic culture. I had the opportunity to speak at one of your conventions and wow! I do so many keynotes and they’re really mercenary. You go in, you do your thing and you leave.

But I really felt like I was with a lot of people, a lot of friends. I mean it was a great experience for me.

Kody: Thank you.

Ivan: So I think culture is so important. BNI, our principle core value is, “Givers gain.” If you want to get business, you have to be willing to give the business to other business professionals. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s a way to build a solid foundation for a long-term business.

Kody: So I recall the old days, going to those networking events and everybody is collecting business cards and everybody is there, like you mentioned, to get business. When you started this in 1985, you simply – what I love about your foundational philosophy is how simple it is. You just flip-flopped it. You said, “Look, we’re not here to get business. We’re here to give business,” and then allow the reciprocation to take care of itself.

Ivan: Yeah.

Kody: Personally in my humble opinion, I really believe that’s one of the key reasons for your massive success is the – that “Givers gain,” driving philosophy is phenomenal. So congratulations for that really.

Ivan: Thank you. We don’t teach this in colleges and universities. We don’t teach networking, referral marketing. So what happens is people, they just go out. They start trying to build their business and they go right into sales mode and they use networking as a face-to-face cold calling opportunity instead of a relationship-building opportunity, which is what it should be if it’s done right.

Kody: Now you told me a story just in our little pre-show. You told me a story about you just recently spoke at an event and you asked a key question. That kind of relates to what we’re talking about. Can you share that with us?

Ivan: I did. I spoke in London. It was a little while ago and there were about 900 people in the audience and I asked everyone there – it wasn’t an industry event. So there were 900 people and they were probably from 500 different professions, many, many different professions. I asked them. I said, “How many of you are here today hoping to maybe just possibly sell something?”

Kody, I had 900 people raise their hand. I said, “OK, second question. How many of you are here today hoping to maybe just possibly buy something?” No one raised their hands. Not one single person. This is what I call the networking disconnect. People show up at networking meetings wanting to sell but they’re not there to buy. That’s why you go to meetings sometimes and you feel like you need a shower afterwards because everyone is trying to sell to you.

Kody: Now you have a book titled Networking Like A Pro. I would like you to talk a little bit about that because in that book, you really talk about these philosophies and tell all kinds of stories. Can you share that with us?

Ivan: Yeah, sure. So the first edition of the book is out now. But the second edition is coming out in just a few weeks and I can tell you the page on the second edition. This is the book by the way. This is the second edition of Networking Like A Pro. I think you can do advanced orders online. But here’s the thing. On page 202, I talk about SendOutCards and I have mentioned SendOutCards in probably four or five of my books.

The only reason I keep doing that is I think it’s a fantastic product. It’s perfect for building networking relationships. So our topic today is the follow-up and it’s in that follow-up that I highly recommend SendOutCards.

Kody: Excellent. So yeah, the topic is follow-up. That’s per your request is you really want to discuss the keys to follow up. In fact, you had mentioned that there is – what I like too about you is do all kinds of smart – I call them “smart people studies”. You’re a smart-people-study guy and you do a lot of studies on stuff.

Seven top characteristics of a great networker. Can you share just a little bit about what that is?

Ivan: Well, I surveyed about 3400, almost 3500 people from all over the world. They weren’t just BNI members. It was open to the public. I asked them, “What do you think the top characteristics of a great networker are?”

By the way, almost all of them were relational-oriented and almost all the characteristics of the poorer networkers were very transactional. So one of the top seven was follows up. Someone who is good at networking is somebody who knows how to follow up effectively. I thought that plus the fact I had mentioned SendOutCards in this follow-up section.

It’s a great topic to talk about because if you want to build a relationship, it has to start somewhere and where it starts is you make that first meeting. You meet somebody and now you got to follow up and connect with them again.

So I think that this is a perfect topic for the beginning of building relationships.

Kody: Excellent. Speaking of, you have a system known as the “24-7-30”. I think this is a great time to talk about that because you get into the core of how to create relationships. It’s called the “24-7-30 System”. I know you talk about that in your book. Can you just share a little bit of that with us right now?

Ivan: Yeah, absolutely. So 24-7-30, if you can just remember that, it’s pretty easy to remember what you should be doing. Within 24 – actually, you meet somebody at a networking event. You go to a Chamber event or maybe you’re at BNI and maybe you’re visiting a BNI or maybe you’re a member of BNI and somebody visits. You want to follow up with them. Within 24 hours, I say reach out to them and touch them. Just connect. Just say hi.

A great message might be, “Hey, it was really nice meeting you at that event yesterday. I enjoyed what you said about your meeting or I enjoyed our discussion. I hope our paths cross again.” Something simple.

Now listen to me. Don’t sell to people yet. Don’t do that. All too often people – you know, they follow up and it’s immediately, “Hey, I’ve got a great business opportunity,” or “I have some products that you might be interested in,” or whatever.

Look, it happens when you go to networking meetings. You will run into people who want your product or service. But that’s not what networking is about. Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It’s about cultivating relationships.

So you want to just make a connection. You just want to say hi. So one of the best ways to do that – this is where I talk about it on page 202. Send a SendOutCards to someone because I’m horrible at doing handwritten notes. But SendOutCards is a great way to connect with people.

Email works but it’s impersonal. Getting something through the mail is like so old school. Nobody does it. You will stand out. Send them something and just tell them it was nice meeting them. That’s the 24.

You want to hear the 7?

Kody: Yeah.

Ivan: So the 7, the 7 is kind of interesting. The 7 is within 7 days, you connect with them on social media. But here’s the thing and here’s the interesting part is that you got to connect with them where they are, not where you are.

I learned this from my kids. As a matter of fact, just today, Entrepreneur.com published an article that I did on the 24-7-30 and they tell this story about how my kids taught me something about networking. But here it is quick.

My eldest daughter at one point, when she moved out, I would call her on my phone. She never answered. Never answered. But I learned that if I texted her, she would respond immediately. So like, OK, I will text her.

My next daughter, she didn’t know that the phone actually had an earpiece. I never taught her how to run it and texting was so old school. But my wife told me, “Look, connect with her on WhatsApp and she will respond to you.”

I’m like, “I don’t even know what WhatsApp is.” But I downloaded WhatsApp so that I could connect with her and have her respond.

Then my son, my youngest, he didn’t know how to use the phone, didn’t like texting and of course email, forget about all of them. But he’s an online gamer. So he – I found out he was on this game called Steam, which was online and had an instant messaging feature. So I actually downloaded Steam because I could message my son and say, “Hey buddy, what are you doing with this or that?” He would respond immediately, but he wouldn’t respond in any other way.

Now here’s why I’m telling you this story. You want to connect with people in seven days. It doesn’t matter where you hang out. It matters where they hang out.

Kody: Right, right.

Ivan: You want to build a relationship with them. You got to learn how to sell and to network effectively. That means you need to be where they are. So find out if they’re active on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter and connect with them in seven days and by connecting with them, I mean comment on their posts. Give some feedback. Make it positive and just every now and then, not every day, not 10 times a day, but periodically just touch them. OK? That’s seven – oh, and don’t sell to them. OK?

Kody: Everybody is getting the message.

Ivan: It’s like – I think people sometimes have sales Tourette’s. They just can’t stop themselves. It’s just – the blurt it out.

Thirty. Within 30 days, reach out to them. Now here, you can call them or you can send another card and say, “Hey, it was great meeting you a month ago. I’ve been following some of the things that you’ve done online. Really found this interesting or that interesting. I would love to meet with you and learn more about what you do and if you have some time, maybe to learn about what I do,” and set up an appointment where you can sit down with them, have a one-to-one and this is the beginning of the relationship building process. Don’t forget. Whatever you do, don’t sell to them even now. Give it some time.

Look, if they want your business, they will tell you. They will tell you. But even a blind squirrel can find a nut. You can stumble over the business.

Kody: Ivan, I think part of the challenge with a lot of new people coming into business or even old school people that have done business a certain way for many years, the disconnect they have with what you’re saying right now, it’s solid foundational philosophy that works wonders. A lot of people hesitate because what I’ve noticed is that people are looking – they’re looking for the homerun. Like it’s like I met somebody and by golly, they are my ticket.

So it becomes this – I’m going to chase that person until I hit the home-run versus just consistently creating relationships over time and allow the homerun hitter to show up naturally. Does that make sense?

Ivan: Makes total sense. You’re absolutely right and I just did an interview with Inc.com and we talked about this very topic and if you do a search on Inc. the topic is – I think in the title it’s called Networking Up, where you’re trying to find that home-run. I’m here to tell you, it’s even worse to try to sell to them.

So let’s say you’re talking to somebody who’s really successful. They are the person you want and so – when I have people deal with me all the time, they say, “Well, it never hurts to ask, right?” Wrong! Totally wrong! Completely wrong! If you ask before there’s any kind of relationship – you got to know, like and trust people.

If you have no relationship and you ask them, not only are they going to tell you no. You have now lost any opportunity to possibly do business with them in the future.

Check out that Inc.com article and I promise you, I give you very specific – when I met Jack Canfield, the Chicken Soup for the Soul author, this is what I did. When I met Richard Branson, this is what I did. I give very specific examples about what you want to do, so that you can connect with them again, because they’re bombarded with people trying to sell to them. Bad idea.

Kody: Yeah. Well, it is. It’s a matter of just transitioning your mind to think exactly opposite, even of what you’ve learned in business school. Like you’ve said, this stuff is not taught in your business schools today.

It’s kind of funny. I had a gentleman that was speaking at one of our events a while back and both of us are really ingrained in the “Givers gain” philosophy. It was so funny because when I first started interacting with this gentleman, I was applying the principles and so was he.

So I was like, hey, tell me about you. Tell me about your business. How can I help you? What kind of things do you like to do? How can I be of service to you? And then he would come back and say, “Well, enough of me. Tell me about you.” So he kind of got bought in the givers side where – I mean it was kind of funny. We joked about it afterwards. But you want to get to that state where you’re completely disconnected with the outcome.

Again, it’s – in all the relationship marketing shows we’ve done over the previous weeks, we’ve interviewed some incredible business owners. It’s being intentional with your relationships. It becomes – business becomes life. Not just business but life in general becomes about relationships, period, with a complete disconnect on business.

Ivan: Right.

Kody: You teach this all over the world. So tell us a little bit about the challenge of overcoming that – the issue that people have with this.

Ivan: Well, I think the secret is to understand that it really is not an effective way to build business. If you’re there out hunting, you basically eat what you kill that day. But if you’re farming and you’re building it based on referrals, then it’s a long-term strategy for an immensely successful business. The problem is exactly what you said. People meet someone. They think this is a great opportunity and when that happens, it’s – there’s a sense of desperation that comes across. You may not realize it. But I’m here to tell you I see it all the time. There’s a sense of desperation and desperation is not referable.

Kody: Right.

Ivan: It’s just not referable. So instead, you want to build the relationship. That’s what I love about you doing this theme for your podcast. It’s about relationships. It’s all about relationships and if you don’t get that, then you’re just never going to build a solid, powerful personal network.

Kody: Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned referrals in there and I got to make sure I got this right. You also – tell us about your – the Referral Institute, a little bit about the Referral Institute, because not only are you the greatest networker guy but I mean you’re kind of the master at helping people generate referrals in their business. We always talk a lot about referrals on this show. Tell us about Referral Institute and what you’ve learned there.

Ivan: Referral Institute, which is now transitioning into the name Asentiv. It’s really my answer to the fact that we don’t teach this in colleges and universities. Now if you’re a member of BNI, we teach you how to network in BNI. But there’s a much broader concept of networking. How do you network in a Chamber? How do you network in service clubs? How do you build your business to relationship building?

So Asentiv, Referral Institute really tries to fill the gap that we’re not teaching in school. So it’s like getting a graduate degree in referral marketing and I put that together because – really because of my reaction to the fact that we don’t teach this in colleges and universities.

By the way, I’m a 16-year – I was an adjunct professor for 16 years. I know the system. I was on the board of trustees for a university for 8 years. So I know the university system. I’m here to tell you, we’re not going to teach it anytime soon. We don’t even teach sales in most universities. You think we’re going to teach networking? It’s not going to happen anytime soon.

Kody: Wow, that’s incredible. So how would somebody – again, there’s a lot of people on here that this is the first exposure to BNI. How would somebody go about learning more or about becoming a member of one of your chapters?

Ivan: Oh, go to www.BNI.com and look up – find a chapter near you and if you know someone, if you’ve heard someone talk about BNI, have a conversation with them first and maybe they can bring you into their group. If not, then go to www.BNI.com, reach out and you tell them that BNI and SendOutCards have a very, very long history of supporting each other and that you would like to just visit a group.

Find a group that – I would look for a group that has great energy, is really positive. You want to find a chapter of people that you want to surround yourself with, so that they can help you build your business. That’s what I would do. Go to www.BNI.com. By the way, also on my website, IvanMisner.com, tons of content. So if you like some of the things I’m talking about here, you can get a ton of content all free at IvanMisner.com.

Kody: Excellent. Thank you. Hey. I want to close the show with a very serious topic. It’s very fresh on my mind. It has been for quite a – even before it got crazy out there in the world. It’s I truly believe that my calling in life, if you will, is to do everything I can to bring the human race together.

We live in a day and age right now where this is needed more than at any time in our history. I mean we’re seeing some great separation in the world today. One of the things I love about what you’re doing, Ivan, is that you have a very positive influence out there with these chapters that does bring people together. So I applaud you for that.

Ivan: Thank you.

Kody: Parting thoughts. I just want to get your thoughts on what do we need to do as people to bring us back together again. What are your thoughts on that?

Ivan: I believe that we as an individual – let me speak for myself. I believe that I, as an individual, may not be able to make a world of difference. But I can make a difference in the world. I believed that 33 years ago when I started BNI. It wasn’t my goal to change the world. It was my goal to change an individual life, to help one person, and then another person, and then another person, and you change the world by changing individual lives.

We all have people who are in our story, right? I’m sure you do, Kody. I certainly do. People who just did a little thing in my life and it changed it immensely! So the question I like to ask when this kind of topic comes up is it’s not who’s in your story. The real question is, “Whose story are you in?”

Kody: Wow.

Ivan: That’s the real question. Who’s out there saying, “Boy, this person made a huge difference in my life”? That’s when you know you’re changing the world and you’re doing it just a little bit at a time. That’s all we can really – that’s all I’ve ever tried to do is change it just a little bit at a time.

Kody: Wow. Well, Ivan, we certainly appreciate the time that you’ve spent to be on here. It’s just incredible speaking with you. You’re always a wealth of knowledge and information. Hopefully you all had a chance to take great notes and we’re looking forward to – you might want to – if you have time, you might want to tune in next week.

We are going to interview next week a guy that – he lives up in Vancouver, up on the island, the Vancouver Island, and he’s a timber guy. He goes out and he prunes trees and he’s a big time timber guy, big old chainsaws, the whole bit.

We are literally going to interview him. He is going to be in his bucket in the top of a tree for the interview. The reason is, is because he uses our system to follow up with people right at the top of trees. So he will go prune trees in somebody’s yard. While he’s up in the tree with his smartphone, he will take a picture of somebody down – take a picture of the home that he’s there to service.

Ivan: Oh, nice.

Kody: And he sends them a thank-you card. So like it gets that – I think you’re 7 – let’s see. Hang on.

Ivan: Six degrees of separation. Is that what you’re going to say?

Kody: No, no, no. Your 24-7-30.

Ivan: Oh, 24-7-30, yeah.

Kody: I think that even applies – you apply that too when we talked about – when you meet somebody, you have the 24 – within 24 hours, you reach out to them. Within 7 days, you hit them on Facebook. Within 30 days, you reach out to them again.

Ivan: Yeah.

Kody: I think the same thing applies to follow-up even after you’ve done business with someone.

Ivan: True.

Kody: That’s what this guy does. Within 24 hours, how does a timber guy follow up with somebody he did business for, within 24 hours? The next morning, he’s sharpening his chainsaw and he’s going out and cutting trees again. So how in the world is he going to follow up and say thank you to someone within 24 hours?

He’s going to show you right from the top of the tree with his smartphone. Great story. His name is Dave Potter. If you have a chance, right? He’s a great guy. It’s going to be fun to have him on our show next week.

Ivan: That’s a brilliant use of the program. Brilliant use. And I just want to say one more time. I absolutely have loved the relationship that we’ve had with SendOutCards. I’m here to tell you that there’s probably no other product – I can’t think of any other product that I have put in five of my books other than you guys. So, you’re with a fantastic – if you’re a SendOutCards representative, you’re in a fantastic organization. I absolutely love it. Love the product. Love what you do. Love your philosophy.

Kody: Thank you, Ivan. I appreciate that very much. Appreciate you and again, go to wwwIvanMisner.com. Learn as much as you can. Thanks everybody for being on the show and we will see you next week. Take care, everybody.

Ivan: Thanks, Kody.

Kody: Thank you.

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