I hate to be the one to break it to you; however, I’d estimate that more than 90% of business networking is a waste of time. It’s non-strategic, poorly executed, and bears little fruit—there I said it!
Now, now, wait a minute! It doesn’t have to be a waste of time. It’s just my opinion that most business professionals are either, whether they know it or not, not very good at it or are simply lazy. That’s unfortunate, considering the large volumes of time and money that small businesses throw at this marketing strategy.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point,” he introduces the concept of “connectors” as people with a special gift to bring the world together. Now combine that concept and attribute with author Seth Godin’s concept of “sneezers” from his book “Unleashing the Ideavirus,” and now you’re talking! You’re networking with people your target market both already knows, likes, and trusts, and that will actively and willingly help you get your word out. I call these folks Networking Rock Stars. Play well in the sandbox with them and let the referrals roll – that is, assuming that you, your product, and your service are worth referring.
Networking tends to be very fruitful for the networking rock stars of the world. Regardless of whether it is 1-on-1 networking or 1-to-many networking, they regularly get qualified referrals. They constantly are connecting with a steady stream of targeted prospects. Why? – Because their networking is typically very strategic and well-executed, they have become more referable!
Let’s be clear here; you’ve got to earn referrals. Just because you believe you deserve referrals doesn’t mean you’ll get them. You need to encourage them. You need to ask for them. You need to make it easy, lucrative, and fun to refer business to you.
Networking rock stars understand this. They don’t leave this to chance; they create their ideal reality. How do they do this? Well, here are a few tips to get you started
Make it EASY for your network to refer business to you! How?
- Make sure you regularly nurture relationships with those who are either in your target market or have influence over it—especially networking rock stars!
- Make sure they clearly understand who you serve and what you serve them with—remember this is your responsibility, not theirs.
- Be clear and specific in asking for what you want.
Make it LUCRATIVE for your network to refer business to you! How?
- Paint a clear picture of what’s in it for them; this is where the concept of ‘Networking Power Partners‘ can really be effective.
- Always reward the behavior you want to see repeated. First, the best reward—refer your power partners! Next best, recognize them for their generosity and referral savvy publicly in front of their peers. People never seem to tire of this type of positive PR.
- Networking Rock Stars make it a point to know what’s important to those they network with and, if possible, give it to them.
Make it FUN for your network to refer business to you! How?
- Hold a referral contest where the person who refers the most business to you wins something they deem valuable.
- When you’re “THE MAN,” you become magnetic, and people will always want to be around you and please you. So become “THE MAN” or, if applicable, “THE WOMAN.”
- Everyone loves free stuff! Free is fun, so let them sample your goods and services if possible; this will give them first-hand experience and will most likely encourage them to speak more favorably of you.
Final Thoughts: Become More Referable
Some key questions to ask yourself are…
- Point blank, are you referable?
- Are you making it easy, lucrative, and fun to refer business to you?
- Are you continually developing your networking skills to become more referable?
- Are you taking advantage of the right networking opportunities best suited for you?
- Are you consciously and continually trying to identify and nurture the networking rock stars in your network?
- If so, GREAT, keep it up!
If not, then in the words of the late, great Burgess Meredith from the movie Rocky II… “What are we waiting for… take this!”