In Parts One and Two of this series, we discussed how an organized referral organization can be a very effective environment for selling your company’s products or services. This involves bringing together a diverse group of people, one in each job classification, who are either business owners or salespeople representing specific businesses. We discussed how important it is to establish yourself early and often as a “giver” and contributor to those in the organization.

In the first article, we discussed the set-up of such a group and the three types of leads and referrals you might give or receive. In the second article, we learned how to structure the meeting, from presenting your weekly commercial to publicly announcing your referrals. This article continues the learning process.

Work the Spheres of Influence

Every so often, I’m asked to observe a networking group and critique its operation. Almost without exception, the first thing I suggest is, “Stop making it your primary goal to sell each other your products and services.” Instead, make it your main objective to have each group member serve as your “personal ambassador” to his or her 250-person sphere of influence.

When new members want to join your group, do a background check for honesty and integrity. If possible, recruit them by networking with others, including those in your group. Urge your members to invite prospective members, as long as they represent a business category that is not already represented. The chances are always better that a newcomer referred by a group member will fit the profile you are looking for.

In order to get the group off the ground, you may have to do some “babysitting.” Call the members the night before the meeting to make sure they’re coming. Although you’re looking for leaders and self-starters and don’t want to waste time trying to “raise the dead,” new members might need a reminder call at first, until they clearly understand the benefits of belonging to your organization.

It’s a good idea to hold your meetings early in the morning, before the regular workday begins. While it can be tough getting people to wake up a little earlier one morning per week, it’s much harder to get people to come to a meeting right after the end of their regular work day. People normally are fresher and have clearer heads in the morning. Hopefully when their work day begins they will find the opportunity to use those leads and referrals they just received from the morning’s meeting while it’s still fresh in their minds.

To Join One or to Build Your Own?

Joining another group frees you of much of the responsibilities

I just described, yet there is also a distinct advantage to beginning your own group. When it’s your own brainchild, you have a higher personal stake in making it successful. You also have a stronger position within the group. Other members are more likely to remember you and your products or services whenever they have a good prospect in mind. These benefits are significant enough to warrant the extra work and responsibilities of forming and running your own organization. However, joining another group is also an excellent strategy and of course involves far less hassle and time.

Three of the largest organizations with presence in cities throughout North America and even internationally are Ali Lassen’s Leads Club (, LeTip International ( and Business Network International (, all based in California.

BNI was founded by Dr. Ivan Misner, author of Business by Referral, Masters of Networking and other excellent books. Since its inception in 1985, his organization (whose motto is “Givers Gain”) has passed on more than three million leads and referrals, generating more than a billion dollars for its participants.

For-profit lead exchange organizations such as these charge money to belong, but the benefits of membership are well worth it.

Other Important Points

One Critical Caveat

There is one question I never addressed throughout this three-part series: is it possible to recruit business-builders through this kind of organization in addition to simply driving product sales?

The answer is: yes, you can—but be careful. If you approach members of the group to join your business, you run the risk of automatically turning off anyone who has preconceived ideas about network marketing.

If you’re thinking of recruiting someone into your business, first develop your relationship with that person to the point where you are able to approach him or her outside the context of the official meeting. More network marketers have turned off entire referral exchange groups by coming on too strong (or coming on at all) in presenting themselves as business-builders. If you want to recruit people from your group, approach them outside the context of the group and only after you’ve built very solid relationships.

BOB BURG is a faculty member of Networking University
and a frequent speaker at networking conventions. He is the
author of
Endless Referrals, Winning without Intimidation and
The Only Prospecting Guide You’ll Ever Need.