Would you like to have as much referral business as you can handle? Would you like to go to sleep at night knowing that the chances are good that you’ll have new business waiting for you the next day, and the next, for as long as you want?
If so, then read on…
Making connections is, and always will be, the key to building a business based on referrals. However, these days, the rules are changing. How many of you still believe networking is simply a matter of going to functions and handing out business cards and hoping someone calls?
Today, more than at any time in history, consumers will only buy from you when they have a “know you, like you, trust you” relationship with you.
So, as a business owner, what’s one of the best ways of making connections?
Networking is the start of a mutual give and take, which results in a winning situation for everyone involved in the transaction.
A dictionary definition of Network is “an arrangement of intersecting lines; a group of people who co-operate with each other; a chain of interconnected operations…” Networking is defined as “the making of contacts and trading information…”
In the words of the old saying, “no man is an island”, no successful person ever made it without the support of a large network. So networking is essential to your ongoing success.
But many people go about it the wrong way.
What do I mean?
Go to just about any function and look around. Attendee’s antenna are up, everyone who speaks to you is secretly wondering if you could benefit from their product or services. In other words they’re in “prospecting mode”.
They try to be “interesting”. They focus on themselves and how they’re performing (getting their message across etc.), rather than on you. It shows and is not a good way to make a lasting impression (of the right kind).
So if you’ve ever found yourself doing this (and let’s face it, we all have at some point), what should you do instead?
First of all, rather than be interesting, be interested. Genuinely interested in the other person.
Find out about them, what they do, what they’re looking for, what some of their challenges are. Then if you really believe you have something to offer, by all means suggest a coffee chat to explore further.
But in most cases rather than being self-serving, try and become a “connector”. Who could you put them in touch with, adding value to both parties? It may be a potential strategic alliance, supplier or client for their services.
Think about it. If the boot was on the other foot, how would you feel if someone you’d just met said, “I know someone who could use your services. I’ll get in touch with them and pass your details on”.
Do you think they’d appreciate it and remember you? You betcha!
While you might not think of yourself as a connector, you are at the centre of your own particular network. Each of you will generally know at least 250 people who will of course be at the centre of their own networks. Each of the people in your network can serve as a source of support (help, referrals, information, etc.) for everyone else in the network.
So if you take the trouble to keep your eyes and ears open, you’ll become connectors.
Which is something Barbara and I do naturally. Just the other day I had a call from someone I’d met at a function a couple of months ago. An entrepreneurial accountant, he’d just left his job and was looking around for another position.
As it happens our own accountant was looking to expand, so hey presto, I could put both of them together. What happens next is obviously up to them, but the key here is that the connection is the second degree of separation. The other lesson is if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Now it doesn’t stop there.
Networking functions allow you to potentially meet lots of people in a relatively short period of time. But there’s no way you can really get to know someone well in 10 minutes.
So once you’ve had some time together, make sure you follow up with a phone call and arrange a coffee chat where you can develop the relationship.
Remember the “know you, like you, trust you” rule. It takes time for this process to occur and you can’t short circuit it.
And don’t pre-judge people. You may not see any synergies, but you don’t know who they know, or who you could put them in touch with at a later date.
And finally, one shot is unlikely to bring positive results.
If you want to build relationships, you need to keep turning up and participating. Put your hand up to help. Take a leadership position. Keep thinking about what you can do for the group, rather than the other way round.
By Rashid Kotwal