“A network consists of connecting lines which run in different directions. Crucially a network – especially a business network – ceases to be a network if there are no connecting lines. Creating and maintaining good lines of communications, in all directions, is as important as developing contacts. We could say instead that there is really no point developing contacts unless good lines of communications are established and maintained.”
Quote courtesy of BusinessBalls.com
We all know the importance of networking, 3rd party recommendations are a powerful way to generate new business. But like all new business development streams, business networking produces the best results when there’s some strategy involved. We attend a breakfast, lunch or dinner event, what turns it from having a meal with some nice people into a lead generation exercise? You will have limited success if you sell to the room, far better to put some time and effort into the meeting, you’ll reap as much as you sow!
What happens after the event, do you cultivate your relationships? Follow up and make 1:1 meetings? For what purpose? Over the last few years I have attended countless 1:1 meetings and met some great people, but to what end? Usually neither party has had a clear idea what they wanted to gain from the meeting and probably like me, they left with some great intentions but no clear idea of how to help each other. Of course there was the odd meeting that turned into an out and out sales pitch, which really didn’t endear them to me – nobody likes being sold to! I was beginning to feel like 1:1 meetings were a bit of a bust.
That was until I met Jacky Sherman from The Referral Institute. I attended one of Jacky’s introductory courses and finally the light came on! At that meeting I met a fellow delegate who was to become my referral partner and even now 3 years later we still refer business to each other!
Referral partners are other businesses that have the same target market as you but are not competitors. Complimentary or completely outside the box good referral partners will be able to recommend you and your business to their clients, it is imperative this relationship is reciprocal, can you recommend them? It is important when choosing your referral partners that your business ethics and practices are aligned – realising that when you recommend someone you are putting your reputation on the line, it takes years to build a good reputation and seconds to lose it so be selective.
How do you find referral partners?
Thinking about what you do, who are your target market? List up to 10 potential referral partners, stay away from ‘anyone who…’ type responses, if you are unsure think about your current clients, the good ones, what makes them good? What do they do? Who are they? You can build up a very distinct profile with some thought!
Next think about what other companies would have these people/businesses as their target market? What other industries would be looking to connect with your clients?
Finally, let’s see if you can use your network to connect with some referral partners! When you are attending your regular network meetings, keep an eye out for these (and other) businesses you can potentially build referral relationships with, if your regular group doesn’t include representatives from your wish list of referral partners then ask the room for connections and explain why you are seeking them. When you spot a potential referral partner, ask to meet for a 1:1 to get to know each others businesses, remember be selective and make sure, as far as you can, that the company you look to work with on a reciprocal referral basis has the same ethics and standards as you do. Oh and let me know how you get on!
PS I met our first two franchisees at networking events!