My BNI® Story


More Than Referrals

By: BNI Staff
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    My BNI® Story

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    BNI Staff

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This Member Success story was submitted by Mike Metzger, Ambassador in BNI Upstate New York and Member of the Business Brewers chapter

I’ll never forget how awkward I felt when I walked into my first BNI meeting. There I was — 25 years-old, new to my job, new to the area.

But, it was too early to talk myself out of anything. I lived an hour away, so I had to hustle to get in the door to make the 7:00am meeting time. It didn’t take long for people to welcome me. I was very surprised, being a younger guy who had never before attended any type of networking event.

“These people are excited that I’m here?” my tired brain wondered, but there was no time to think--there were so many people to meet! I thought I did an okay job when it came time to introduce myself to everyone. Actually, I must have said something right because after the meeting I was asked to join the group! 

“You’ve already got your cuts and scrapes!” Richard the Visitor Host exclaimed after I told him I had spent two years in insurance call center sales. He must have noticed the perplexed look on my face. “If you were brand new to your industry, we’d be a little concerned. But, you’ve already got your cuts and scrapes!”

That was 8 years ago. And over those years, I’ve been to a lot of meetings, I’ve met a lot of new people, and I’ve received a lot of referrals. As I’ve advanced in my sales career over the years, I’ve noticed that I’ve received a lot more than just referrals from BNI.

Here is a list of 4 lesser-know, BNI side benefits:

No need for coffee. I was not a morning person when I first joined BNI. To be quite honest, I’m still not. I used to be the kind of person who’d say, “It’s too early. I’m not ready to talk or have any type of human interaction without my cup of coffee first.”

Well, that certainly doesn’t work at BNI where you have to be “on” as soon as you walk through the door, first-thing in the morning. There’s no time to sip away on your coffee as you wait for it to hit your bloodstream--before the meeting even begins, you have client updates for other Members or you’re getting to know a new visitor. You don’t have time to “settle in.”

This has helped me in all other aspects of my business--early client appointments, A.M. presentations, or other types of morning mixers. I don’t use “it’s too early” as an excuse for not acting like a cool, confident professional. Because of BNI, my body and mind are trained to burst into action at the sight of new connections and new prospects, no matter how early in the morning!

Know how to network. I’ve been a Member of several chambers in the last 8 years. They’re different from BNI, as there isn’t a carved-out time for you to promote your business. Many other businesses (including your competitors) attend mixers and functions with very little regularity. It really is what you make of it.

Thanks to BNI, I know what I’m looking for. I have personal experience of working with so many different professions, so I know who my natural referral partners are. My “elevator pitch” has been developed over years of selling my business at BNI meetings, and I know how to be specific.

If there is another chamber member I think would make a good partner, I know the natural next step is to invite him/her to coffee so we can have a proper 1-to-1. And if the thought of being alone at a mixer gives you anxiety, you know there will always be some fellow BNI Members there to talk to in-between meeting new connections!

Know how NOT to network. Have you ever been “hard-sold” within mere minutes of meeting a new Member of the local business community? Perhaps a coffee date with a potential new referral partner turned into a full-blown sales pitch? 

Very few things irk me more than a premature sales pitch, especially in a networking setting. I don’t make mistakes like this anymore because I know about BNI’s principle of VCP - Visibility Credibility Profitability. Yes, as salespeople we need to ask for the sale and have that killer instinct when it comes to closing deals. But when it comes to establishing long-term relationships with referral partners, I know I must remain visible over a period of time in order to build credibility, and that is the only path to true profitability!

My own personal benefit. Being new to an area can be tough. Luckily for me, I’ve always found help from fellow BNI Members! Whether it was finding a new dentist, getting a DJ for my wedding, getting the mortgage for my first home, or finding a contractor to repair it--I’ve always been extremely fortunate to have knowledgeable, trustworthy people around me when I was in need.

What lesser-known, side-benefits have you experienced during your time with BNI?

M I K E  M E T Z G E R  Property & Casualty Specialist

MetLife Auto & Home®

Business Brewers chapter