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When I was first starting out in my career, I didn’t even know what networking (or “leads”) groups were, let alone was an advocate for them.

Since then, however, I’ve seen – and experienced firsthand – how they can dramatically grow sales and, ultimately, businesses.

In 2009, I was introduced to my networking community of choice, Biz to Biz Network, Inc., when I was an independent consultant for a multi-level-marketing company.

Like so many young entrepreneurs, I was struggling to find people to reach out to and talk with in order to grow my business.

Then, I was invited to an informational Biz to Biz meeting for a new chapter forming in Bozeman (where I lived at the time).

I immediately seized the opportunity and even joined a second chapter for my “day job” to help grow my sales there as well.

Fast forward to today and I’ve been a member of a Biz to Biz chapter for over 7 years.

It was an essential tool for growing my business from Day 1 and continues to be an excellent source of sales, business relationships, and business skills.

Over 70% of my clients have been from Biz to Biz referrals and nearly two-thirds of my revenue stream as well.

So, it’s easy to see why I love networking groups.

If you’re like so many business owners out there who struggle to generate leads and grow their business, or just want to have one more way to market yourself, networking groups are a fantastic avenue of growth.

There are three main reasons I recommend joining (or starting) a chapter:

 

1. They Create an Educated Sales Team

Because you attend each week and share a tidbit with the group about your business – or a piece of advice you give your clients that they can pass along to others – the members of your group basically become an extension of your sales team.

They hear a friend, family member, or business associate talk about a problem relating to your services – and bam! They refer you.

You follow up with the prospect, discuss their needs and how you can help, and close the sale.

Rinse and repeat.

Of course, networking groups are a two-way street.

You have to be providing value to those in your group by supporting them with referrals or lending them business advice – trust is key to success.

If you just show up and ask for business, it won’t work.

You have to be invested in the other members.

 

2. They Expand Your Knowledge & Business Skills

When 20 to 30 people share tips and ideas relating to their area of expertise each week, your own business knowledge expands by default.

I can’t even number how many things I’ve learned that have either positively impacted my business or my personal life.

I’ve been given an informal education on business and personal insurance needs – what to make sure you’re protected with and why buying on price alone is a bad idea.

I understood at an early age how important it was to have a will and got one done earlier than most of my peers.

I’ve received tax-saving and accounting tips that have proven essential as I grow my business.

I’ve been fully educated on how home buying and lending works.

The knowledge I’ve gained has proven to be very useful information that I wouldn’t have otherwise known.

Or would have learned about the hard way.

This might be one of the biggest and most unexpected reasons I love being a member of a leads group.

So much information is shared on a weekly basis that it simply makes you a better business mind – and person.

 

3. They Establish a Trusted Set of Advisors

In each Biz to Biz chapter, there are inevitably a wide variety of business people and industries.

As a result, I’ve gained trust and confidence in the professionalism and knowledge of many of them.

When I have an accounting question, I can call on that member (or previous member, as is sometimes the case) for advice.

When I have a legal question, I can call on that person for assistance.

Same goes for personal needs – if I want to go to the gym, I know the member who has spent each week telling me all she knows about fitness, will be a great person to go to who will get me the results I want.

This is another benefit of being a member that I didn’t anticipate.

I knew it would grow my business, but I didn’t realize how much the relationships I built in it would support me both personally and professionally.

And I’ve gained many friendships I wouldn’t have otherwise, which may be the most priceless thing of all. 

 

So, How Do You Join a Networking Group?

If you live in Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, or Washington, give the folks at Biz to Biz a shout by calling 1-763-249-2249 or requesting they contact you. And their website has a map featuring all of the communities they currently have chapters in and where there may be an opening for your business (there’s only one industry allowed per chapter).

If there isn’t a chapter in your state or town, don’t let that hinder you! Find a friend willing to work with you to start one and work with the Biz to Biz team to make it happen. It’s what I did in here in Stillwater County and although it can be a bit of work at first, the rewards are ten-fold, both personally, professionally, and in the community as well!

*If you don’t live in one of those states, talk with your local Chamber of Commerce, or ask around to see if there is something in your area that will serve a similar purpose (and ask Biz to Biz to get on a waiting list, as they are looking to expand across the nation).