Support Material & Techniques for Increasing Referrals

If you’re not getting the amount of referrals you’d like to be getting, take a look at the support materials and techniques you’re currently using.  Below are some effective ways to influence people to refer you.  Some of these may not work for everyone.  The idea is to select those you think you can apply in your own business or profession.

Samples.  If you have an opportunity to distribute your materials, do it.  Bring products, samples, brochures, or a presentation book.  Many networking groups provide a brochure table where you can place these items.  If people can see, feel, touch, hear, or smell samples of the product or service you provide, they are more likely to use you.  Offer special, members-only prices or services.  If you can get network members to use you, then they are much more likely to refer you.

Presentation Books.  Everyone active in networking groups can benefit by developing a presentation book.  Buy a high-quality, three-ring binder that can attractively dislplay samples of  your products or services, brochures, photographs, etc.  Take this to your meetings and make sure it gets circulated.

Free Presentations or Demonstrations.  Many business professionals offer to speak free of charge to service clubs or business organizations as a way of getting exposure and promoting their business.  If your product or service is conducive to this approach, tell the members of your personal network that you offer this service, and accept speaking engagements as bona fide referrals.  Ask them to pitch you to the program chairs of organizations to which they belong.

If you’re well prepared and do a good job at these presentations, you may find yourself getting many more speaking offers and a lot of new business.  This technique is effective for almost any profession, but it’s particularly helpful for consultants, therapists, financial planners, CPAs, and attorneys.

Door Prizes.  Smart business professionals know that people who have tried their products or services will probably use them again.  I highly recommend that you offer door prizes regularly at your networking groups and ensure that you are given credit for the door prize when it’s given.  Always attach a business card so the winner knows where to get more.

Keep in Touch Regularly.  Meet people outside of the normal meetings that you go to whenever you can.  Write cards or letters, send articles that might be of interest, call to check in, let them know about a local business mixer, have lunch, play racquetball, tennis, or golf.  Reinforce the relationship with a thank-you note.  If someone gives you a referral or important information, send a thank-you note or gift basket.  This reinforcement will strengthen the bond and encourage that person to think of  you again.

Follow-Up.  Knowing how to get referrals is really a matter of knowing how to be helpful to the people you associate with and how to ask for help in return.  A successful referral marketing program involves creating an effective support system for yourself that also works to the advantage of others.

All the networking in the world, however, serves no purpose if you don’t follow up effectively with the people you meet or who are referred to you.  I’ve seen people who work hard at making contacts, but whose follow-up was so bad that the contacts were lost.  It’s as if they networked halfway and then completely lost sight of the potential to generate business by referral.  Follow-up letters and phone calls set the stage for further contact.  All things being equal, the more you’re in contact with others, the more business you’ll generate.  Today, more than ever, there’s no excuse for not following up.  Why?  Because there are many companies on the market that produce numerous follow-up cards, thank-you cards, and contact cards especially designed for networking.

Schedule “reconnection calls” regularly.  Such calls enable you to remind the new contacts who you are, where you met them, and what you do, as well as help you stay in touch with your long-term contacts.  If you don’t follow up with a phone call or letter, you will surely lose many business opportunities.

 

 

 

Farming for Referrals

If I could impart one piece of wisdom regarding networking and getting more referrals, it would be this: Networking is about farming for new contacts, not hunting them.

It’s a point that needs to be made, because most business professionals go about networking the way our cave-dwelling ancestors went about hunting food–aggressively and carrying a big stick.

You’ll see them at any gathering of businesspeople. They’re so busy looking for the next big sale or trying to meet the “right” prospect that they approach networking simply as an exercise in sifting through crowds of people until they bag the ideal client, the big customer who can turn their business around. They don’t have time for regular people like us; they’re stalking the director of marketing, chief operating officer or other high-octane connection, looking for the big kill.

“Farmers take a different approach. They don’t waste time looking for the right person; instead, like those who plant seeds and patiently nurture their crops, they seek to form and build relationships wherever they can find them. If they get an immediate payoff, that’s fine, but it’s not their principal goal. They know that the effort expended upfront will pay off in a rich harvest later on–much richer then the hunter’s quick kill–and that truly profitable relationships can’t be rushed.

Share your thoughts OR experiences relating to farming vs. hunting in your networking activities.

Make the Connection

One of my employees told me this week that she passed some advice from one of my books on to her cousin; it was about making connections at networking functions.  She told me that her cousin, Greg, recently joined a chamber of commerce to promote the new business he started after being laid off from the company he had worked in for a number of years and he felt clueless as to how to form connections with the strangers he came in contact with at mixers.

My employee remembered reading an article by Alice Ostrower in my book Masters of Networking about making connections so she passed it on to Greg. Reportedly he feels much more comfortable at mixers and has been having a lot more success in networking his business because he now has a strategy for making connections and he feels he knows his purpose when he arrives at a networking event.

Here are the four standard techniques that have been working for Greg and I guarantee they will help you get your networking message across effectively and encourage a positive response (Thanks, Alice! :)):

1.  Get the person’s attention.  Show interest by asking questions: “How are you?” “Where are you from?” “What do you do?” “Have you heard about? . . .” “Did you know? . . .”

2.  Add interest.  Respond to the answer but don’t move the conversation to you; elicit more information from the other person.

3.  Involve.  Use the “feel, felt, found” formula (“I know how you feel, I felt the same way, and this is what I found”) to involve yourself in the other person’s message before you deliver your own.

4.  Network.  Tie it all together by connecting one person’s needs or goals with the resources, needs, or goals of another person.  For example: “I felt the same way until I met John Jones.  He really helped me accomplish my goals.  Why don’t I have him give you a call?  Is tomorrow evening convenient?”

This is networking at its best.  Your new acquaintance finds a solution to a problem, your referral gets new business, and you gain a reputation as a friendly, reliable, knowledgeable person who seems to know everybody.  Your name and reputation will become familiar to more and more people, and your business will automatically benefit in the long run.

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