From the Founder

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“Interview” Instead of “Invite”

By: Ivan Misner, Ph.D
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    From the Founder

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    Ivan Misner, Ph.D

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My favorite approach for inviting visitors to BNI® is what I call the “We’re interviewing” technique.

Suppose your chapter needs a printer. When you meet a printer, explain that you’re in a referral group and say, “We’re interviewing printers now to find the best printer in the area to give all of our business to. I think you might make a good candidate.” (Replace “printers” with the profession your chapter needs.) Here’s how the script could be phrased:

“I’m in a referral group (you don’t have to go into much detail).  I have been a member for [however long]. We get together on a regular basis, and we’re all about passing business to each other. We’re interviewing [fill in the blank for the profession] right now to find a really good one in the area to give all of our referrals to. I think you might make a good candidate.”

This shows people the value of BNI membership and helps the chapter to be selective about new members. Good groups don’t take just any candidate. They want to take qualified candidates, and this approach helps set that expectation.

Of course, this also means you have to interview the visitor after the chapter meeting – and you should only request that they submit an application if you think the person is a good fit.

This is simply the most powerful way to invite people to visit a BNI group. It’s much better than just telling people how great BNI is. It is great – but sometimes the excitement from a member can come off as too strong to someone who has no idea what it’s all about: “Oh, you have got to join this organization. It’s the best organization around. They get a lot of business.”

People who don’t know about BNI, or don’t even really know the person inviting them, are like, “Who are you? And why are you trying to sell me on this? Read the palm.”

Right? They are put off.

The Power of Exclusivity or FOMO (Fear of Missing Out!)

One of the things that I found is that if members of BNI can, in an appropriate way, be more exclusive about who they bring in, they are actually going to get more interest from people. It’s a little bit counterintuitive, but it’s absolutely accurate.

Why? Because most entrepreneurs and sales people hate not being picked!

What is the implied meaning of the sentence: “We are interviewing and you might make a good candidate”? The implication is that they might not be picked. Again, entrepreneurs hate not being picked. They want to be picked. The idea that they might not is much more interesting to them than if they have the impression that the group will accept anyone with a check, ready to pay for the membership.

And this concept of being exclusive benefits every member of the chapter. We ask members to think of their BNI chapter as their room, and we ask them: Who do you want in your room?

Chapters whose members are selective about who they bring into their room are much more likely to fill it with good, qualified business professionals. The interview concept is not only important for building interest in visitors to the chapter, it is also important to knowing the right candidate to extend the invitation to.

Here’s the important thing: If you say you are going to interview candidates for the open position, then you’d better do just that. Don’t just say you are going to interview them; really interview them. Sit down with them after the meeting and ask them questions, such as the following:

  • Can you tell me a little more about what you do?
  • What is your target market?
  • How do you view us being able to help you?
  • How do you think you can help us as a group?
  • Would you share some of your professional background? 

The BNI member application is a great tool to use, following the questions listed there when interviewing the candidates and to get them to open up and talk about the various topics. After the interview, if there is a good fit, then they can be invited to submit an application. 

This is a very powerful technique, and I honestly believe it is one of the best ways to invite people to visit BNI, and to decide if they are going to benefit the group while benefiting from the membership.

Why is it so important for potential members to visit a BNI meeting first? It’s because members can tell them what BNI is all about until they are blue in the face, but no one really understands until they attend a meeting and see the vast amount of business that is gained by referrals between the members.

I have found that trying to explain the details of the BNI process to someone who has not actually experienced a meeting is like trying to train someone to ride a bike without getting on one. But it’s important to phrase the invitation in such a way that it entices the potential member, hence, the interviewing approach.

If potential members push for more information, by all means answer their questions; however, the focus should be less on the features of the meeting and more on the benefits. For example, talking about the details of how a meeting runs is a focus on the features; talking about getting referrals is a focus on the benefits.

I opened 20 chapters in one year using this approach, so I know it works.

Has it worked for you and your chapter? We would love to hear how your interviewing process works.