There have been countless times over the years where I’ve heard of people who join a business networking group and then become disillusioned because the referrals don’t immediately start pouring in. The fact is, whatever you pay for membership when you join a networking group is only an admission price. It gets you into the room where opportunities may come your way, however, it does not entitle you to referrals. It is not enough to simply show up and participate in a meeting. You must make the most of these opportunities and the new contacts you meet.
Even with the built-in structure and focus on referrals in a strong-contact group, a member can fail to generate referrals or to receive referrals for themself. Why? Networking skills are the number one requirement for generating more referrals. The setting of a networking group simply makes it easier to use these skills. Being a member of a business networking group does not entitle you to expect or receive referrals. The following traits can help you build your networking skillset.
- Follow up on referrals. It is crucial to follow up quickly when you receive a referral, or even just a phone call, from a referral partner. If you don’t, you not only lose business, you also lose credibility. Likewise, it is important to follow up with your referral partners when you give them a referral to make sure they have contacted the person you referred to them.
- Have a positive attitude. A consistently negative attitude makes people dislike being around you and drives away referrals. A positive attitude makes people want to associate and cooperate with you. Positive business professionals are like magnets. Others want to be around them and will send their family, friends, and associates to them, too.
- Be enthusiastic and motivated. Think about the people you know. Who gets the most referrals? The people who show the most motivation, right? It’s been said that the best sales characteristic is enthusiasm. To be respected within our networks, we at least need to sell ourselves with enthusiasm. Once we’ve done an effective job of selling ourselves, we’ll be able to reap the reward of seeing our contacts sell us to others!
- Be Trustworthy. When you refer one person to another, you are putting your reputation on the line. You must have trust in your referral partner, and you must be trusted in return. Nobody will refer a contact to someone who can’t be trusted to handle it well.
- Be a good listener. Our success as networkers depends on how well we can listen and learn. The faster you and your networking partner learn what you need to know about each other, the faster you’ll establish a valuable relationship. Communicate well and listen well.
- Always be networking. Successful networkers are never off duty. Networking is so natural to them that they can be found networking in the grocery store line, at the doctor’s office, and while picking the kids up from school, as well as at the chamber of commerce mixers.
- Thank people. Gratitude is sorely lacking in today’s business world. Expressing gratitude to business associates and clients is an important building block in the cultivation of relationships that will lead to increased referrals. People like to refer others to business professionals that go above and beyond. Thanking referral partners at every opportunity will help you stand out from the crowd.
- Enjoy helping people. Helping others can be done in a variety of ways. It may be showing up to help with an office move or sending an interesting article to an associate or a client. Master networkers keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities to advance other people’s interests whenever they can.
- Be sincere. Most people can quickly spot insincerity. You can offer the help, the thanks, the listening ear, but if you are not sincerely interested in the other person, they’ll know it! Those who have developed successful networking skills convey their sincerity at every turn. One of the best ways to hone this skill is to give your give the person with whom you’re developing a referral relationship your undivided attention.
- Work your network. It’s not net-sit or net-eat, it’s net-work, and master networkers don’t let any opportunity to work their networks pass them by. They efficiently manage their contacts and have their referral partners’ contact information ready to share easily. They set up appointments to get better acquainted with new contacts to learn as much about them as possible so that they can truly become part of each other’s networks.
For years I’ve been teaching people that the networking process is more about farming than it is about hunting. It is about cultivating deep, mutually beneficial relationships with other business professionals. Developing and consistently using your networking skills will help you get more referrals from your networking partners.