I just finished a survey of more than 12,000 businesspeople from all around the world on the subject of networking. One of the questions we asked the respondents was “Which of the following is most important to you when referring business to others?” The choices were:
- Knowing a person’s character.
- Knowing a person’s level of competency.
- Using the person’s product or service myself.
- Knowing a person’s success.
Not surprisingly, “knowing a person’s character” ranked No. 1 in the survey. Interestingly, “using the product or service myself” ranked third out of the four choices! This is important to understand when building your own personal network of people referring you because it shows that people are definitely looking at more than just the quality of your products and services when they think about referring you to other people.
Often, we think that the best source of referrals must be our clients, customers or patients. Although they definitely are a good source, they are not our only source. In fact, based on this survey, personally using and experiencing another person’s product or services before referring business to that person was not as important to the respondents as other factors.
What this means to you is–you need to build your credibility with people who know you (whether they’ve used your business or not). If people trust your character and competency, they are likely to refer you regardless of whether they’ve actually used your products or services.
This is an important paradigm shift for many people. It means that many of your referrals may actually come from people other than your clients–if you learn how to network effectively.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.