Fridays are the day I answer random questions that are asked of me throughout the week.
Today's question comes from Greg:
"How can you really get the people you meet to refer business?"
This question comes up a lot. Many people sour on the concept of networking because they do not see those the meet actively referring business.
On the other hand, I know first hand that people will refer business. In fact, I just got a referral the other day that looks like a real opportunity. But I think there are two things you need to ask yourself before you decide that networking wont work for you:
1. Have you given it enough time?
It takes years of active networking (which means going to three or more networking events a week and following up with key people that you meet). Very often people will "network" and expect results within a few months. Also, just meeting someone in your business community does not make them a referral source, you need to build a true relationship. To build a relationship it means you must go to lunch, coffee, golf, etc... If you are not spending time creating and cultivating your network, then you are not really networking.
2. Have you given referrals?
You have to give more than you get. If you assume others will become your virtual salesforce you are mistaken. People will help you if you help them. I know a person who is an active networker, yet he always complains that those who know him do not give him enough referrals. Yet I almost never see this man help others. He is a taker not a giver. And giving is not just referrals for business, it can be connecting them to other interesting people in your network. A successful networker knows that anyone could be a referral source, so they are thrilled to meet exciting people.
Don't just assume networking does not work unless you have done the above. People will do business with people they know and like. If you are not visible in your business community consistently (for YEARS), then they wont get the chance to know you.
On a side note I got a great tip from a woman named Meredith. She says that she schedules breakfast or coffee everyday on her way to work with people in her network. That way she personally sees five "referral sources" every week, while keeping her lunchtime free for clients and prospects. (It is because of people like Meredith that Starbucks stock does so well!!!)
Have A Great Day.