BNI and Tom’s Question for the Experts

When I first read Benefacto Nominus Idiocritus, I was very conflicted. I didn’t know whether to pretend I hadn’t read it or to link to it and potentially cause an uproar. Then, I remembered Tom’s Question for the Experts and all the great answers that he received.

I do, in fact, have very strong opinions about these leads groups, but seldom share them except with a few very close trusted associates because frankly, my opinions are closer to the aforementioned blogger’s than the typical lead group member. The reason that I’m choosing to comment is that many of the answers to Tom’s questions suggested that the strong should help the weaker if the weaker really want help and are willing to do what it takes and the strong shouldn’t worry about those that don’t want or need help. I consider myself an above average salesperson and an above average networker, so here I go.

Organized leads groups do serve a purpose. Some businesspeople don’t have a clue when they get into business. So, they learn how to develop business relationships. They also learn how the other group members solve problems, so honestly, it’s more of a learning experience than a ‘networking for profit’ experience. Respectfully, new business owners need all the help that they can get.

However, at some point, the member has to do a cost benefit analysis, but I don’t agree with the analysis that the blogger did. Here’s mine. If you’re objective is to sell $1,000,000 a year and work 2,000 hours in the year to do it, every hour that you work should result in $500 in sales. If you put 2 hours a week into your group, that’s 100 hours a year. At $500 an hour, you should be able to look back at the past year and be able to count at least $50,000 in sales that are a direct result of the group. The inaccuracy in my numbers is that the sale isn’t actually made at the meeting, so there’s follow up time that needs to be accounted for.

Now, here’s the rub. Most of the people that we’re talking about don’t sell $1,000,000/year. As a matter of fact, most would be happy to sell $100,000. If you use that number, their hourly rate become $50/hour and a mere $5,000 justifies the investment of time every year so they do it. Now, look at this page. Top right corner says that “members have passed $15,537,881 in closed business in the past year. Middle of the page says “100 chapters with an average of 27 members each”. Do the math. $15M divided by 2700 is $5,754.77 per member.

Maybe I was just lucky?

So, in closing, most of those people are happy selling at the level they’re selling at. They’ll never invest in making themselves better because they don’t see themselves being better. ‘Most’ is the key word. Some will aspire to $1,000,000 or more. Those people will eventually realize that they need to invest in themselves. They need to put their time into more productive activities and they need to associate with bigger thinkers.

Until they do, they are what they are. They’re probably as happy with their life as we are and we have no right to try to change them unless they ask.

7 thoughts on “BNI and Tom’s Question for the Experts

  1. Very well said, Rick. As you know (and thanks to you), I’ve been on both sides. When I started my business, I had no clue. Then, I joined BNI and learned a whole lot from a lot of great, dedicated and smart people. I consider joining and being an active member of BNI for 2 years as one of the pivotal decisions I’ve made in my career. But, you’re right. Midway through my 2 years, I invested in my own sales development and building my own network of referral sources. Of course, my BNI members were a part of that. But, I outgrew the “guise of exclusivity” and the need to meet f2f on a weekly basis – in order to make my sales numbers. Now, I’m on track to be closer to $500k of revenue for 2007 with a goal of 1M for 2009.

  2. Thank you, Peter! You are one of the few. I’ll add that although you said ‘BNI” and I used their statistics, I used the term ‘leads groups’ because the ‘anti-BNI’ and ‘quasi-BNI’ groups are usually formed by one or two people who’s exclusive seat(s) is (are) already taken in the BNI group in their area. Although they always change something in the BNI model, they ultimately wind up in the same place. BNI just happens to be the biggest and most visible (like Walmart), so they’re the easiest target.

  3. As an independent professional since 1990, and two 2 year stints as a leads group (lg) members, some BNI and others, I actually came to a similar conclusion for similar and different reasons. If you aren’t a match to the majority or at least a number of lg members: business to consumer, b2b, or consumer to consumer, it’s difficult to get even the minimal return. You want to have members have the mindset they are on each other’s sales teams, NOT selling to each other as often happens. Y gads, those 60 seconds throwing out their hook right at me! And you want to regularly measure the roi of your membership. I do this once a year. As the second year of one lg came up to renewal. I found that the majority of my business came from other relationships, people I knew before or outside the group. What WAS I doing? Finally for now, there is NO one way to sales success. The groups work for some and not for others. Many factors at play. Your “stuck in a rut” factor is certainly a major one. Thanks for putting those numbers to it! I just find the whole way people approach their membership in many of these groups, is incongruent with true relationship marketing. Patricia WeberSales Accelerator Coach for Introverts, Shy and Reluctant

  4. Patricia,Great points! Unfortunately, many people believe that if it doesn’t show, it’s not selling and that everybody’s a prospect if we’re only giving polite attention.Thanks for playing!

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