By LANDON WOODROOF
Today there are countless ways for business professionals to connect with potential clients: Online marketers analyze sophisticated data to pinpoint select audiences and a variety of apps purport to tell customers who they should give their business to.
Recently, a group of business professionals in and around Brentwood, though, decided to band together and pursue a more time-tested method of finding customers: word-of-mouth. The local professionals formed a new Brentwood chapter of BNI, an international organization that helps its members become masters at the art of interpersonal client referral.
The new BNI chapter is the third in the Brentwood area. On Tuesday mornings at 7:30 a.m. chapter members meet at the Churchill Mortage office on Old Hickory Boulevard and discuss their business needs. The goal is for the members to get to know one another, trust one another and send business each other’s way.
So far the group has 18 members, but it is looking for more, Chapter Director Consultant Melanie Culbreath said.
Culbreath is a sales director with Mary Kay. She heard about BNI through some of her fellow directors.
“I was looking to grow my business more…and they had had success” with BNI, Culbreath explained. That was nine years ago when Culbreath joined the Williamson County chapter of BNI. She has seen a dramatic uptick in business as a result.
“About 30 percent of my business comes from BNI referrals,” Culbreath said.
Recently, Culbreath became involved in the effort to start the new Brentwood chapter.
“The opportunity for it came together because there were business owners in the area who were wanting to grow their business,” she said. Sustained development and growth in the area fueled that desire.
Each BNI chapter accepts one member from a given profession. A chapter may have everything from an estate planning attorney to a residential realtor to a plumber to a dentist. This system allows each representative of their profession to get the maximum number of referrals.
“It’s a seat that’s exclusive just for you,” BNI Senior Managing Director Kate Mulder said.
The main qualification BNI is looking for in the membership interview process is quality.
“We’re really only looking for those people who are the best of the best in their profession,” Mulder said.
Mulder explained how BNI works to serve its members. While members refer business to each other, BNI provides expertise and training to help make the members’ efforts as effective as possible.
“We’re their coach,” Mulder said. “We teach them how to build their business by word-of-mouth referral.”
She described BNI as “a relationship-based company” whose twin goals are to grow members’ businesses and help them make more money.
“Our members make money by joining BNI chapters and developing relationships with other members to the point where they know, they like and they trust them,” Mulder said. “Through that trust they introduce their clients, family and friends to other business owners.”
It is a system that has attracted 220,000 members in 70 countries across the globe, Mulder said. Those companies have generated $11.17 billion in revenues last year. In just the BNI region covering Middle Tennessee, Kentucky and southern Indiana, businesses brought in over $84 million last year.
The new Brentwood chapter, named Strategic Partners, is still actively seeking new members. Visitors are free to come to one of the weekly meetings at Churchill Mortgage at 761 Old Hickory Blvd., Suite 400 to find out more. They can also call Mulder at (615) 297-0076.
Culbreath hopes they do not hesitate. Every member can have a huge impact on a chapter.
“We believe that everybody knows somebody,” she said. “Everybody is important. You never know who people know. If you’re trying to make connections and grow there are still opportunities.”
To see a complete list of BNI chapters in the area, click here.