As the incoming president of Manhattan BNI 7, I was trying to think of ways to help my chapter and remembered what BNI Assistant Director and former Manhattan BNI 7 president, Lauren Simpson said at a Leadership Training session about LinkedIn and using it as a tool to connect with other professionals.
In the upper right hand corner of a LinkedIn page to the right of the “people” search tool is an Advanced search button that if you click it, it brings you to another page with greater search capabilities. There you can enter key words and further limit your results by a radius of say ten miles from a certain zip code, thus localizing those results.
At one of our Chapter 7 meeting, a member, an image consultant and personal stylist said she was looking for Matchmakers as referrals and possible power partners, (power partners being people who can be an ongoing source of referrals). This prompted me to search for Matchmakers within a ten mile radius of zip code 10022 in Manhattan.
Once the information was entered and the radius filter set, I saw that there were several pages of results, the first results being those people within the first few degrees of my personal LinkedIn network. This can be handy if there is an immediate connection or link between you and your prospective referral. If there is, you can ask your connection for an introduction and go from there. If not, you can try an e-mail or a phone call assuming you have that information available. In my case, out of a list of about 6 potential prospects, none were within the first degree of my LinkedIn network so I came up with this simple e-mail asking not only if my member can contact them, but I also invited the prospect to learn more about BNI and even come to visit the chapter:
Hello (first name):
I found your profile on LinkedIn. I am the president of Manhattan BNI Chapter 7 and one of my members who offers image consulting and personal styling is looking for an introduction to someone in your profession. Perhaps you would be able to help each other. In any event, her name is (full name of member). Please let me know if I can provide (first name of member) your information and have her contact you.
As well, let me know if you would like to learn more about BNI 7 and/or visit as my guest. http://www.bni7.com/
Notice I don’t give out my members’ info but ask if I can have her contact them as this shows their seriousness and willingness to receive the call and it also confirms that this is an actual referral to my member.
Of the e-mails I sent out, three did not respond and the other 3 responded favorably that they would like to be contacted and one of those also checked out our BNI 7 website, found another member she wanted to speak with and then visited the chapter as my guest the following week.
As well, Chapter 7 like many other BNI Chapters, is always looking to grow so I thought why not do a search for professionals that are not currently represented in our group. In this instance you can do a similar search to the one above and use an e-mail or phrase like this when you speak with them:
Hello (first name):
I found your profile on LinkedIn. I am the president/member of Manhattan BNI 7 and we are looking for a (their profession) to refer business to. Please let me know if you would like to learn more about BNI 7 and/or visit as my guest.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Again, Lauren Simpson was kind enough to suggest the idea behind this simple, but very effective phrasing which she would use at networking events and cocktail parties. And from this technique alone this year I’ve had 5 or 6 visitors to my chapter.
I don’t mention that we meet every Wednesday at 7 a.m. in the morning or give any further details unless they express a real interest in visiting and then if the seem hesitant I say “come for a visit, I can’t guarantee this will be for you but I can say you will like our group and you will have a good time and then you can decide if it’s something you want to do. There’s no obligation to join and it won’t hurt to visit once.” This gives them an out but it also piques their interest that they should at the very least, check out the scene.
This networking technique does take a bit of time to sift through the search results, and in some instances there is limited contact information available, but many LinkedIn profiles do have company or personal website links which will provide the contact info you’ll need. Try it, and feel free to use and personalize the e-mail templates provided. If the prospects don’t respond, move on, if they do, great! But remember, if you don’t ask, the answer will always be no. Keep at it, it will work eventually and the time you invest will benefit your fellow BNI members which in turn will benefit you. For as we all know, Givers Gain!
Best of luck!
Owner of The William C. Allen Insurance Agency
President of Manhattan BNI 7