Using Support Materials to Increase Referralsstring(45) "Using Support Materials to Increase Referrals"

When it comes to business networking, are you receiving as many referrals as you would like to be getting?  If not, I recommend that you look at the support materials and techniques you are currently using and then continue reading for some effective ways to influence people to refer you. Some of these suggestions may not work for everyone, however the idea is to select those that you think you can apply in your own business or profession.


Whenever you have an opportunity to distribute your materials, do it. Bring products, samples, brochures, or a presentation book. Many networking groups provide a display table where members can place these items. If people can see, touch, hear, or smell samples of the product or service you provide, they are more likely to use and recommend your company. Occasionally, you may want to offer special, members-only prices or services. When the members of your network use your services or products, they are much more likely to refer you.

Presentation Books

Everyone who is active in networking groups can benefit by developing a presentation book. Invest in a high-quality binder that attractively displays samples of your products or services, brochures, photographs, etc. Take this to your meetings, set it on the display table or place it where you are sitting during the meeting.

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 mention you to the program chairs of organizations to which they belong.

If you are 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 and it’s particularly helpful for consultants, financial planners, therapists, accountants/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 at the appropriate opportunity and be sure to attach your business card so the winner knows where to get more and who to get it from.

Keep in Touch Regularly

Meet people outside of your normal networking meetings whenever you can. Write emails, 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. When someone gives you a referral or some important information, send them a thank-you note or gift basket. This reinforcement will strengthen the bond and encourage that person to think of you again.


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 is mutually beneficial and works to the advantage of others.

However, all the networking in the world 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 their follow-up was so bad that the contacts were lost. It is as if they networked halfway and then completely lost sight of the potential to generate business by referral. Follow-up letters, messages, 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 will generate. Today, more than ever, there is no excuse for not following up. Why? Because we all have many modes of communication and there are many companies that produce numerous follow-up cards, thank-you cards, and contact methods especially designed for networking.

Schedule “reconnection calls” regularly. These 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.

Which of these support materials and techniques have you successfully used for your business? I’d like to hear about it in the comments section.

Networking Is About More Than Just Talking Businessstring(51) "Networking Is About More Than Just Talking Business"

Many people think that networking consists only of talking about business and exchanging cards. That is a misconception, which is definitely part of it. However, it is not all of it.

In a networking group, you want to talk about more than just business with your fellow members. A referral relationship is more than, “I do business, you do business, let’s do business.” A much better approach is to find common ground on a personal level, make connections with other people, then talk about each other’s businesses.

The longer I’ve been involved in networking, the more I’ve seen the power of personal interests in making connections with potential referral partners. Successful networking is about building personal relationships. If you remove the personal part from the equation, you limit the amount of business that can happen.

The GAINS Exchange

Years ago, I developed the GAINS Exchange for BNI® members. The acronym stands for Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, and Skills. The idea is to have people share personal and professional information about themselves in those five areas to find overlapping interests or activities. For instance, if you and I have a common goal of completing a marathon, that gives us something more to talk about. We share both a goal and an interest, which opens the door to an engaging conversation and strengthens our connection.

In one BNI chapter I worked with when I was testing this out, there were two participants who had known each other for more than a year but had never done business with each other and really hadn’t made any connection at all. It wasn’t that they didn’t like each other; their businesses were very different, and they didn’t seem to have anything in common. They did not want to do the GAINS Exchange together. However, once they did, they found that they were both coaches for their sons’ soccer/football teams. They quickly became close friends and started helping each other conduct certain aspects of the soccer practices and shared coaching techniques.

Guess what? Within a few months after they started interacting on a personal level, they started passing business to each other. That’s right – they began referring business to each other. Two guys who had barely spoken to each other for a year because they had so little in common, ended up doing business with each other because they built a relationship over soccer, over football. Who would have thought that? I certainly didn’t, and yet when I saw the results, I knew that this was an essential business technique for people to build their business by referral.

Using GAINS Effectively

I recommend that BNI members use the GAINS Exchange every time they have a One-to-One meeting with fellow members. It is most effective to take turns – I talk about my Interests, both personal and professional, and then YOU talk about your Interests. Then I talk about my Accomplishments, and you tell me about yours, and so on. By doing it back and forth, you each have the opportunity to ask questions that allow you to discover your common interests. This is the foundation for a successful, mutually beneficial business relationship.

During your first One-to-One with another member, you may want to start with Interests first, which are often the beginnings of a relationship.

It’s okay to go out of order, as long as you each get to talk about all five of the GAINS topics.



Keep in mind that your GAINS Exchange information will need to be updated a few times each year. When one of your Goals becomes an Accomplishment, it needs to be noted. If you learn to speak Spanish, add it to your Skills section. Joining a Rotary Club is another Network on your GAINS profile. The most successful networkers meet with their fellow chapter members more than once, allowing them to find out what’s new.

  • Goals are how we help one another. It’s much easier to give referrals to someone when you know what they are trying to achieve
  • Knowing someone else’s Accomplishments lets you build their credibility.
  • Interests help us find common ground and build rapport.
  • Discovering each other’s different Networks lets us connect one another to diverse professionals.
  • Skills provide more credibility and open doors to doing business.

Business networking really is much more than simply telling someone what you do for work. It’s all about referrals. The goal is to build relationships with people that you know and trust. When you know and trust them, you are going to have the comfort to refer them to others and they will do the same for you.

By talking about more than just business with our potential referral partners, we find common, non-business interests that endear us to the other person. We move beyond salesperson and become a friend.

I’d like to hear from you. How has talking about more than just business helped you build your professional relationships?




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