Eight Categories of Referral Sources for Your Business

Eight Categories of Referral Sources for Your Businessstring(54) "Eight Categories of Referral Sources for Your Business"

Referrals are often the most profitable way to gain new customers. And the only way to get referrals is through other people in your network.
I’ve found that most networkers only focus on existing clients as their main source for business referrals. However, there are seven other referral sources which can also be developed to generate opportunities for new referrals.

  1. Satisfied Clients
    One of your best referral sources is satisfied clients. Having firsthand experience with your products or services, they are true believers and can give convincing testimonials about you. Stay in touch with these customers; they are your top fans, your best promoters, and they can be very effective in helping others decide to do business with you.

  2. People in Your Contact Sphere
    A Contact Sphere is a group of businesses and professions that complement, rather than compete with, your business. Each of them has customers who can benefit from the services of the others. For instance: event planner, caterer, photographer, and florist.

  3. People Whose Business Benefits from Yours
    These are the people who get more business when you get more business: your suppliers and vendors. If you sell workbooks, the printer who prints them for you benefits. It is in these other businesses’ self-interest to give you referrals.

  4. Others with Whom You Do Business
    Think about the people you go to for your personal and professional needs. Your own business may not have anything to do with dentistry or hairstyling or automobiles, but in your everyday life you do business with a dentist, a hairstylist, auto mechanic, and many more. If you’ve been using their services for some time, they probably know what you do and that you’re a reliable, trustworthy person. Sometimes this is all the recommendation a potential client needs.

  5. Staff Members
    Except for customers, no one understands better than staff members how your products or services perform. Every member of your staff from all departments gives your business a boost when they talk with their friends, neighbors, and people they meet in their daily lives. Remember that working for your company will always be a part of your former staff members’ history, too, and is often part of their conversation with prospects as well.

  6. People to Whom You’ve Given Referrals
    You’re more likely to get a referral from someone to whom you’ve given a referral or helped them in some way. The best networkers believe in the “givers gain” philosophy (what goes around comes around). The more you give to others, the more you’ll get in the future.

  7. People Who Have Given You Referrals
    People who give you referrals for business, or direct others to you for advice, are demonstrating that they think highly of you and what you do. If they didn’t, they would refer people elsewhere. Strengthen and nurture these prospective referral sources; don’t take them for granted. Show your appreciation with personal communication and by referring prospects to them.

  8. Other Members of Business Referral Groups
    Referral groups are set up by their members mainly to exchange business referrals. A typical weekly meeting of such a group includes time devoted exclusively to networking and referring business. Get to know your fellow members to build mutually beneficial relationships that help each other’s businesses grow.

Community Service Organizations

As you think about the people you know in the eight different groups of referral sources, you may find that many of them are from community service groups you are involved with. These types of organizations give business professionals an opportunity to give something back to their community and to make valuable contacts.

While these groups exist primarily for community service, they also provide an excellent opportunity for businesspeople to meet regularly and develop relationships.
Local service organizations are usually populated with the movers and shakers of the community. Those who are long-term, active, and contributing members of such groups usually end up befriending people who can open doors and present little-known opportunities for them.

With any business organization, particularly service clubs, it is very important to remember that making effective contacts and building deep business relationships is a journey, not a destination.

Savvy professionals who know and cultivate their most likely referral sources get the largest number of high-quality referrals, and the more referrals they get, the more revenue they generate in the long run.

I urge you to make a commitment to reach out and connect with at least one person from two or three of these eight commonly untapped referral sources to start developing and strengthening your business relationship with your potential referral partner.

Successful Business Networking: Do You Need to Know How to “Sell?”

Successful Business Networking: Do You Need to Know How to “Sell”?string(70) "Successful Business Networking: Do You Need to Know How to “Sell”?"

The answer is YES. Master networkers know that sales skills are absolutely required for successful referral marketing. Those skills are needed in every part of the process – not just in closing the sale with the prospect.

There have been numerous businesspeople I’ve met over the years who are fantastic networkers and they think that just because they know how to network, they don’t need to know how to sell. They assume that people will like them and then, because they like them, their products or services will sell themselves. This kind of mentality is unfortunate because people who think this way often leave business on the table.

There are three steps in the referral marketing sales process where selling skills are essential.

To Get the Referral

From the very beginning, you must sell yourself to your potential referral source.
Remember, a referral is not a guaranteed sale. A referral is an opportunity to talk with, and possibly do business with, someone to whom you’ve been recommended. You still have to close the deal. You have to make it clear that you know how to sell, and that you can and will provide the products or services that you are expected to provide. And that the customer will be happy with both the process and the result – which will reflect favorably on the person that provided the referral.

If you are unable to make that first “sale,” your potential referral source won’t become a referral partner. They won’t be inclined to risk their reputation and relationship with the prospect and won’t do their part to sell the referral.

To Get the Appointment

Beyond selling yourself to the referral source, you have to sell yourself to the prospect to get that first appointment. Yes, the referral helps a great deal, but you still have to convince the potential buyer that the appointment is worth their time and is likely to result in a favorable outcome for them.

I strongly recommend that networkers avoid being aggressive, indecisive, or evasive at this point. The prospect has been in contact with your referral provider and is expecting a high level of professionalism and respect from you in your approach. Be confident that a mutually beneficial deal is in the works and communicate this to the potential client with your attitude and actions. Strive not to embarrass your referral partner that connected you with this person.

To Get the Sale

Once you have made the appointment, you have to persuade the potential customer to buy your product or service. This is the part that usually comes to mind when you hear the word “sell.” Your integrity is paramount at this stage. They should know exactly what to expect from you – no hidden charges, no unexpected exceptions, and no bait-and-switch.

The number one thing to remember is to make your referral provider look good when you are talking with the person they referred to you. You need to demonstrate that you know how to sell to the prospect in a way that doesn’t reflect poorly back on them. They want to be confident that you will consult with the potential customer, discover their needs, offer solutions based on those needs, give them some options, and you won’t force a sale if you know you are unable to provide a good solution.

Note that in referral marketing, closing the deal with your prospect is neither the beginning nor the end of the selling process. To get to this point, you will have made at least two other sales, as noted above. To build and maintain the long-term relationships that characterize successful referral marketing, you have to follow up with both your new client and with your referral partner as part of the total sales process.

Sales skills are important in business networking. Some people are better at closing sales than others. Having the knowledge and skill to generate the referral, then having the knowledge and skill to close the sale, gives the businessperson a significant advantage.

The sales process is all about keeping an ongoing relationship with the client or customer, AND with your referral partner. This is something that the best referral marketers know and understand. “Sell” is a word that should be in every networker’s vocabulary.

How do you sharpen your sales skills and/or keep an ongoing relationship with your clients/customers?

The Power of One Conversation

The Power of One Conversationstring(29) "The Power of One Conversation"

Sometimes one conversation can create the pebble-in-the-pond dynamic that changes people’s lives. It may be a kind word to someone you know who is feeling overwhelmed or despondent. It may be a helpful gesture to someone you don’t know who needed to feel noticed that day. It can even be an invitation to a business networking event. This is the story of one such invitation.

The Power of One Invitation

A realtor in the U.S. was attending a local Chamber of Commerce mixer where a woman introduced herself and they began talking. At the end of the conversation she said, “I am part of a business networking group and we have breakfast every Wednesday morning. I’d love to invite you to breakfast, would you like to come?” He replied, “Absolutely.” On the following Wednesday he attended the meeting and was very impressed. He felt welcomed when he arrived and was pleasantly surprised with the structured way the meeting was run and with the business referrals that were being passed between the members. After the meeting, he chatted with some of them, and they invited him back for a second visit the following week.

The next week when he returned to the networking group, he found out that there could only be ONE residential realtor in that chapter. The member who was the realtor happened to be someone he knew, and she said to him, “You ought to think about starting your own chapter.” She then gave him the name and contact information of the person who could answer any questions if he wanted to find out more about it.

He called that day and after an hour-long conversation they decided to start a new BNI® chapter. That chapter grew into a group of businesspeople who built deep professional relationships with each other. Along with passing referrals that turn into revenue for each other’s companies, they care about and support each other.

A Culture of Caring

When devastating wildfires went through their community, 900 houses were lost. Several of the chapter members and their families were among those evacuated from their homes. Their fellow BNI members welcomed them into their homes, giving them a place to stay during those fires.

Yes, that one conversation between two attendees of a networking event was very powerful. It brought together dozens of people who created a group with a culture of caring and of welcoming visitors. They’ve passed referrals that have generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in closed business for the members of the group. That one conversation grew into a caring community that goes beyond a weekly chapter meeting. It brought together people who support each other with a Givers Gain® attitude and a genuine desire to help each other succeed.   

Do you have a networking story about one conversation?  I invite you to share it here.

What to Do If You Get a Bad Referral

What to Do If You Get a Bad Referralstring(36) "What to Do If You Get a Bad Referral"

Today’s professionals know that building a network of strong relationships is important to receive good referrals for their business. However, sometimes we receive a referral that is just not that good. It may be that the referral needed something outside our scope of services or products. Sometimes they don’t need anything at all, or they weren’t expecting your call and don’t want to talk with you.

What does one do after receiving a bad referral? My experience is that clear, open, honest, and direct communication that is professional and polite is the only way to solve the problem. It is impossible to get to the heart of the situation without a conversation.

Three Tips for Dealing with a Bad Referral

  1.   Always speak up when you get a bad referral and talk to the person who gave it to you. Tell them tactfully, but tell them! I’ve talked to many people who say, “Oh, I can’t tell someone that the referral they gave me was no good.”

    My reply is, “You can’t afford not to tell them.” Be direct without apologies. Simply say, “This is what happened. I wanted to come to you before I just assumed it was a bad referral,” and then listen to what they have to say. You can listen to an example here.
  2.   Be positive and make sure they know it was the referral they gave that was bad, and not their effort. Let them know that you appreciate them thinking of you and your business. The best way to ensure that you don’t get bad referrals is to teach people what you consider to be a good referral. This is different for each person and varies widely among professions. You cannot assume that everyone in your networking group knows what kind of referral you are seeking. You need to be specific and clear about what constitutes a good referral for you and educate your referral partners.
  3.   If that doesn’t work, go to your networking group’s membership committee. Don’t talk to other people in the group. It is extremely unhelpful when people talk about each other and not to each other first. Share your concerns with the membership committee. They may have received other complaints about that member giving bad referrals. A good membership committee of a chapter will have a conversation with them and take appropriate action as needed.

Bonus Tip: Track Your Referrals

An effective way to make sure you get good referrals is to monitor the referrals you receive. This can be helpful in several ways. It shows you how often you get referrals, who your referral sources are, the quality of the referral, the status of it, and how much money successfully closed referrals bring to your business. If you don’t know this information today, you may want to consider implementing a tracking system for monitoring your future networking efforts. Over the years, I have observed that people who use systems generate more business.

Referrals and Reputations

When you give a business referral, you give a little bit of your reputation away. So when you are giving referrals, make sure to give good ones. Talk to the potential customer about your networking partner and how they can possibly help them. Ask permission to have your friend call them before you share their phone number. If you give someone a bad referral it can seriously hurt your reputation in your networking group and in the business community. Of course, when you give a good referral, it helps your reputation.

For years I have said that one of the strengths of a BNI® networking group is that most of the members are friends. One of the potential weaknesses of a BNI group is that most of the members are friends. Accountability is key.

If you find yourself in a situation of getting a bad referral, follow the first tip above and talk to the member who gave that referral. You never know what might come out of that conversation.

Four Ways to Grow Your Businessstring(31) "Four Ways to Grow Your Business"

We all want sustainable growth in our business. The question is: where to begin? Success expert and author Brian Tracy said, “When all you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.”

We can do more than walk around with a hammer. I think we can be more strategic by identifying four ways to grow your business and examining the pros and cons of each.

  1. Advertising

This is often the first place businesses go to drive growth, especially if they don’t know where else to start. There are numerous advertising options available including online, television, radio, print, newsletters, billboards, coupons and other promotions, bus benches, and even posting a business card on the local community bulletin board.

The Pros of Advertising

  • The potential to reach masses of people in a short time frame.
  • Very little work or effort because an expert is hired to do it.
  • It can generate a large volume of leads.
  • It can be targeted to specific demographics and to different geographic areas.

The Cons of Advertising

  • Potentially the most expensive way to grow a business.
  • If an advertising campaign is not strategically executed, it could have zero results.
  • Some statistics show that 80% of sales come after at least five impressions or contacts with potential customers. There needs to be a commitment to a long-term strategy with advertising campaigns.
  • Consumers are bombarded with ads, and it can be difficult to break through the clutter and capture their attention.

  1. Public Relations

Public relations (PR) manages the message between a company or individual and the public. Good PR helps build visibility, boost credibility, and enhance the reputation of a brand or company through storytelling, and by promoting a company’s products and services. This is usually accomplished through press releases, feature stories on television news broadcasts, and/or articles in newspapers, magazines, or websites.

The Pros of PR

  • It is a cost-effective approach to building positive awareness about a brand.
  • PR is an efficient tool for building credibility, especially through media relations.
  • The third-party endorsement and support of a quality journalist who covers a story about your company can be invaluable.
  • Good PR can enhance and amplify other marketing efforts.

The Cons of PR

  • PR is generally about brand building. It is not about immediate sales.
  • It takes time to build relationships with both journalists and with the public. Public relations results are not instantaneous.
  • Measuring the results of any marketing initiative is critical. However, it is often difficult to evaluate the success of a PR campaign because it is not traditional marketing.

  1. Cold Calling

About ninety-seven percent of salespeople don’t like to make cold calls. That means the remaining three percent who claim to like cold calling are either lying or are gluttons for punishment. If so many salespeople dislike cold calling, why do they continue to do it? Perhaps it is that cold calling may seem to be the most direct route to conceivable new business.

The Pros of Cold Calling

  • It allows someone to hone their skill of leaving the prefect voicemail message which will never be returned by most of the prospects being called.
  • Cold calling builds character, which is supposedly good for you.
  • If you make enough cold calls, someone will eventually take pity on you and just maybe buy something.

The Cons of Cold Calling

  • It’s a cold call.
  • It can take hundreds of cold calls before there are any signs of potential success.
  • There are hundreds of calls to follow up with.
  • Cold call recipients often reject the caller or just hang up on them.

  1. Networking and Referrals

One of the best opportunities for new business comes in the form of a referral. A referral is the most qualified form of new opportunities and is also a compliment to you and your business. Think about it: there is often nothing to gain on the part of the person giving the referral except their desire to recognize how great you are by allowing you to take care of their family, friends, and business associates.

The Pros of Networking and Referrals

  • The closing ratio for referred clients is 300 – 700 percent higher than for cold call leads.
  • Referred customers stay four times longer than non-referred customers.
  • Clients from referrals buy 3-4 times more in the first year than those from other sources.
  • Referred customers are more likely to refer you to their family, friends, and co-workers in the future.

The Cons of Networking and Referrals

  • Quality referrals cannot be purchased. They must be earned with the investment of time and energy needed to develop deep business relationships.
  • Without a referral marketing system or strategy, referrals can be infrequent and random.
  • Profitable referral relationships take longer to develop because they are based on trust.

  • Now that you are familiar with the four ways to grow your business and understand the pros and cons for each, you can make an educated decision about what will work best for your business. It is likely that you will use (or already have used) a unique blend of all four of them. As a businessperson, I have used all of them at some point in my career.

My experience from more than three decades of growing and running a business is that referrals are the least costly form of business growth, and they typically produce better long-term results.

I invite you to share your experience and thoughts in the comment section.

Are-Referrals-Always-Reciprocal

Are Referrals Always Reciprocal?string(32) "Are Referrals Always Reciprocal?"

Some people think about business networking as a game of Who is giving what to whom, always wondering how they can score more.  I caution those people that there is no rule that says, “For every referral you give, you can expect one in return.” Similarly, when you hand out more referrals, it does not mean that other business professionals will automatically do the same. It just doesn’t work that way in referral marketing. A referral is not always reciprocal.

Effective business networking is about building deep relationships with referral partners. Entrepreneurs who focus on giving first and asking “What can I do to help you?” instead of “What’s in it for me?” are usually more successful in their networking efforts.

Talk to Them

If you find that you are giving someone a lot of referrals and you are not getting anything in return, the first thing to do is to sit down with them. Be tactful and respectful. Rather than saying, “I have given you all of these referrals. How come you have not given any to me?” you can instead sit down with them and review all the business referrals you have given them in a way that shows you care about their success. Remember, it is not an interrogation: “Hey, I have given you this. I have given you that.” It is a conversation.

A good way to start the conversation is like this. “I think I have given you three referrals this year. I want to talk about how they worked out for you. I gave you this one to the ABC Company. How was that referral? Oh, that turned into business for you? What did you think of working with that person?”

Ask them how each and every referral you’ve given worked out for them. Discuss one at a time and thoroughly review that referral; ask questions about what transpired after you gave it to them. This is important. Make sure that the referrals you gave were as good as you think they were. Don’t make assumptions about them. You may have thought it was platinum and it turned out to be dirt.

Sometimes we find out that none of the referrals worked out. They may not have worked out because they were not quite as good as you thought. If they didn’t turn out as well as you thought that they would, talk about it. Ask them how you could improve in giving them quality referrals. And then listen to what they say!

By the way, that is a good question to ask even if the referrals did work out. “I am really glad that the referrals worked out. How could I improve in giving you additional quality referrals?” This is all part of building and strengthening the relationship.

How to Talk About You

After you have invested the time to talk about each referral you’ve given AND you find that all the referrals you gave to your networking partner were good and beneficial for them, you can tell them how glad you are that you were able to help them.
Then and ONLY then, do you say this:
“I am pleased that the referrals worked out for you; that is what our networking group is all about- supporting one another and giving each other referrals.” Then you can say that sending business referrals your way would be helpful to you, too. Ask if they have a few minutes now to talk about how they could find good referrals to give to you.

This is a genuine, caring, and calm conversation that comes from the intention of helping someone else. It is not based on assumptions or filled with accusations that may put someone on the defensive.

If you discover those referrals you gave didn’t work out, then I wouldn’t even go down the road of asking for reciprocal referrals. I would ask, if those didn’t work out, how can I do a better job for you? If you are doing business with someone who truly believes in Givers Gain®, they are going to ask the same of you.

Be Realistic

I am a realist. If there is someone in your business networking group that refuses to give you referrals, I can understand why you might not want to continue to refer them. However, that is rarely the case.

Remember – effective networking is about being relational, not transactional. What goes around comes around. And – it might not even come around from where you sent it. Sometimes you give a referral one place and receive a referral from someplace else. You might be getting referrals from people who you have never given a referral to.

We also want to be mindful of the value of the referrals. If we are talking about a florist and a real estate agent, the real estate agent is probably going to give the florist a whole lot more referrals than the florist is going to give to them. Although one good referral to the agent could be worth a lot of flowers for the florist. Keep in mind that it is not just the quantity, it is the quality, and the value of the referrals. All of these things have to go into the consideration.

As professionals, we must have these conversations with our networking partners. Only when you do, and find out that the referrals have, in fact, been good, can you then say, “I would love for you to be able to reciprocate if possible. Do you have time to talk about how you might be able to give referrals to me?”

The Power of the VCP Process®string(30) "The Power of the VCP Process®"

The VCP Process is the foundation of everything I teach about business networking.
It is why we go to networking events. We don’t go to networking events to “sell,” we go to those events to work our way through the VCP Process.

What is VCP?

The key concept in referral marketing is relationships – mutually beneficial relationships.
However, these relationships don’t just spring up full grown; they must be cultivated and nurtured. As they grow and develop, they evolve through three phases: Visibility, Credibility, and Profitability. The VCP Process describes the creation, growth, and strengthening of all relationships. It is useful for assessing the status of a business relationship to determine where that relationship is in the process of getting referrals. 

VISIBILITY
Visibility is the phase where people know who you are and what you do.

This happens when two professionals become aware of each other and their respective businesses. It could be because of advertising efforts, or through a civic or business association, or through someone you both know. You may become personally acquainted and work on a first-name basis, however, you know very little about each other. 

The visibility phase is important because it creates recognition and awareness.  The greater your visibility, the more widely known you will be, the more opportunities you will be exposed to, and the greater your chances of being accepted by other individuals or groups as someone to whom they can refer business. 

Visibility must be actively developed and maintained. Without it, you cannot move on to the next phase.

CREDIBILITY
Credibility is the phase where people know who you are, what you do, AND they know you’re good at it.

It is the quality of being reliable and worthy of confidence – appointments are kept, promises are acted upon, services are rendered. When you and your new acquaintance begin to form expectations of each other, and those expectations are fulfilled, the relationship enters the credibility phase of the process.

The old saying that “results speak louder than words” is true and very important for building your credibility in the business relationships you are developing within your networks. You cannot buy credibility, you can only EARN it. Therefore, getting to credibility takes time. When you get to credibility, then you can get to the next phase.

PROFITABILITY
Profitability is the phase where people know who you are and what you do. They know you’re good at it, AND they are willing to refer business to you on an ongoing, reciprocal basis.

The relationship that has developed and matured, whether business or personal, can be defined in terms of its “profitability.” If the relationship is mutually rewarding by providing benefits to each party, and both partners gain satisfaction from it, it will endure. Profitability is not found by bargain hunting or by rushing the relationship. It must be cultivated, and similar to farming, it takes patience.

We can look at every relationship we have and determine where we are in the VCP Process with that person. Remember that everything we do, every action we take, will affect our credibility – either positively or negatively, which affects the time it takes to reach the profitability phase.

Time AND Confidence

Getting to the point of profitability in a business relationship takes both time and confidence. The Time-Confidence Curve shows that whatever type of business you are in, it will take time before people have enough confidence in your ability to provide a quality product or service to know that referring other people to you will not hurt their own reputation.

In the video, you’ll see the Time-Confidence Curve by Profession where I talk about the time difference that it takes from profession to profession to reach the critical confidence level. Some professions may take less time to reach the necessary confidence, for instance – a florist may get referrals quickly. While for other professions, such as a financial planner who invests someone’s retirement money, it will take longer for people to have the required confidence to refer their friends and family to them and their services.

It IS a Process

VCP stands for Visibility, Credibility, Profitability. It is NOT a formula. It is not V + C = P. 
It is a process. You go from visibility to credibility, and from credibility to profitability.

It is important to understand the VCP Process to network effectively. It is a mindset that involves the concept of business networking being more about farming than it is about hunting. It is about developing and growing relationships with like-minded people and knowing where you are in the process, V or C or P, with each of your referral partners.

I invite you to share your thoughts about the VCP Process in the comments section.

Talking About YOUstring(17) "Talking About YOU"

To achieve success in business networking, people need to know what you do and how good you are at doing it. In referral marketing groups, you have opportunities to educate your fellow members about your products and services, as well as the way you interact with potential and existing customers. This is very important to building trusted relationships with the people in your network and for building your credibility enough that they will refer others to you.

Even though most experts discuss networking as though it is easy to talk to strangers, I know that some people find it difficult to talk about themselves. Telling others how good of a businessperson you are just doesn’t come naturally to some of us. However, to get the results you want from your business networking efforts, you must get comfortable talking about YOU.

Getting Comfortable

I recently talked with Charlie Lawson, author of the books, “The Unnatural Networker” and “The Unnatural Promoter.” He says that many professionals are great at what they do. They provide amazing products and top-notch services to their satisfied and devoted clients. And yet, as a businessperson, they may feel uncomfortable with self-promotion and would rather completely avoid talking about themselves.

The best way to get comfortable is to have a group of people around you, people with whom you have good relationships, and who want to help you. When you have established deep, trusted relationships with the members of your networking group, and you’ve educated them about your business capabilities, they will begin talking about you with others. They will go out and promote you for you.

Third-Party Endorsement

The third-party endorsement has always been an effective way to promote yourself.
In my first major book, “The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret,” I discuss the fact that people are more likely to talk about you when they’re upset with you than when they are happy with your services. What you need to do is mobilize those people who are satisfied with your business, and train them to talk about you and how to talk about you effectively. That’s when you get those third-party testimonials that are so powerful.

Referral marketing works when you build strong relationships with your referral partners and are comfortable enough to talk about your business skills and strengths with them. When they are confident in your abilities, they will talk about YOU and refer other people – potential clients, to you.

This works both ways; you need to talk about and find referrals for your referral
partners, too. Remember, the Givers Gain® philosophy is based on the age-old adage of “what goes around comes around,” and giving is just as important as gaining.

I’d like to hear your experience with getting comfortable talking about yourself when networking and invite you to share in the comments.

Predictable Unpredictabilitystring(28) "Predictable Unpredictability"

Many things have changed over the past few years. We now live in a world of Predictable Unpredictability. Whether we like it or not, the future involves change. However, there is one thing that has remained unchanged for the past 30-40 years.
I talk about that, and more, in this video.

Better Together

Today, you need to constantly evaluate your business health within an ever-changing business environment. When you are part of a trusted network you develop a great advantage by building your business through referrals. While your competition relies only on increased advertising to generate growth, you have a powerful network to help you through the unpredictability of today’s world.
Your business network is your business advantage.

Today more than ever you need your network because your network can help you through the most difficult times. Referrals are the engine that drives any business and through consistent business networking, you can harness the power of referrals. Remember, we are all better together.

I invite you to share your thoughts about Predictable Unpredictability.

 

Business Networking is a Marathonstring(33) "Business Networking is a Marathon"

Business networking truly is a marathon of an endeavor – it is most definitely NOT a sprint.  I have met many people who practice ‘hyperactive networking’ who approach their networking efforts at the speed of an all-out sprint. They want to be everywhere, meet everyone, and go, go, go at such a pace that they inevitably ‘collapse’ due to burn-out and have nothing to show for their efforts.

Activity is Not an Accomplishment

Years ago, I met a woman who was known as the consummate networker. She had hundreds, perhaps thousands of contacts, giving her a broad network made up of people from all different walks of life. She was very well known in her community as the go-to person for anything that anybody needed.

One day, she pulled me aside and dropped a bombshell…. she said that her networking efforts weren’t really paying off for her. She went on to tell me about all the groups that she went to, all the people she met, how she had made so many good contacts and was continuing to make more all the time, but she wasn’t getting any solid business from all her efforts. I asked her how many networking events she went to each week, and she said she was going to at least five, and sometimes she went to more!

Why wasn’t she seeing real results? Because despite her amazing talent for making contacts and gaining visibility, she never really got to the heart of what networking is all about – building relationships.  She was so busy running around and making appearances that she wasn’t ever learning how to actually “work” the business networks she had created to build deep relationships with people and develop credibility with them.

It’s true that she was visible in the community; she was very visible. The problem was that she viewed “activity” as an “accomplishment” when it came to her networking efforts. Her network was, in fact, a mile wide, but only an inch deep. She had not taken the next, and most important, step with the many people in her wide-reaching network. She never devoted the time to develop the kind of rapport with any of them that would allow them to really get to know her, like her, trust her, and want to pass referrals to her.

Networking is About Building Relationships

I recently saw the same thing with someone I’ve known for a few years. He made a consistent habit of going to every single networking meeting and event that he could go to, and he was incredibly visible. Not only was he always at networking meetings, he was always full of energy and enthusiasm from the time he arrived, to the time he left. Again, the problem was in no way due to the lack of activity, effort, or enthusiasm regarding putting himself out there and meeting new people.

The problem was that he was running around so much that he never stopped long enough to spend the time necessary to establish the kind of long-term roots that lead to an ongoing, reciprocal referral relationship. The end result was that he got a severe case of networking burnout! He went from going everywhere and meeting everyone possible, to going nowhere and meeting almost no one. A year later his business went under.

Networking is More About Farming Than It Is About Hunting

If your goal is to significantly grow your business by simply making as many contacts as possible, you will never build a powerful personal network. If you are networking with the ‘sprint’ approach, you’re almost guaranteed to get burned out. Constantly bouncing around from event to event is exhausting and ineffective. There needs to be a balance between the visibility-creating aspect of your networking efforts, and the credibility-creating aspects of your networking efforts.

One way to accomplish this is to schedule regular one-to-ones with people you’ve met, in order to go deeper in understanding the services that they offer, and how you might be able to refer them. Most importantly, it’s a way for them to do the same for you.

Case in point is another woman who was a real estate agent in California who shared with me that her business grew dramatically during a major recession in the past, because she decided to develop a network that was both wide and deep in some places.

She took my advice and did at least four one-to-ones a month with people in her network. She focused on building relationships. And once she was convinced that she had found a good business opportunity for some of her contacts, she would actually phone the contact on the spot and put them together with the person that she was meeting with. This created powerful introductions that led to business.

From this activity, she ended up giving twice as many referrals to other people as she had in the past. More importantly, she received twice as many referrals as she had from people in the past. She was treating the process more like a marathon than a sprint. This is a great example of how networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It is all about building relationships with key people.

What is amazing about this story is that it happened at a time when businesses were dealing with a massive recession and the fallout from that recession. More importantly, the businesswoman was in a profession that was hit as hard or harder than the overall majority. Despite the conditions around her, she used her relationship building skills to create long-term referral relationships.

At its core, business networking is about taking the time to build genuine, trusted relationships. Yes, visibility is important, however, without building trust right along with it, visibility won’t get you very far in the long run. It is about treating networking like a marathon, not a sprint.

When it comes to networking, sometimes you have to slow down to go fast.

You’re Going to Need a Bigger Boat

You’re Going to Need a Bigger Boatstring(36) "You’re Going to Need a Bigger Boat"

In the 1975 hit movie “Jaws”, Martin Brody, the Police Chief of a small summer resort town in the northeastern United States, utters one of the most quotable lines in film history when he gets his first up-close look at the Great White Shark.  As soon as he sees it, he slowly backs into the wheelhouse and says to Captain Quint, “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”

This is the prototypical ‘Brody Moment’: a shockingly unambiguous realization that the current resources are no longer a viable option to achieve the results you’re looking for. 

I hope to explain how my Brody Moment came about.  However, the most important thing is for you to think about “your” Brody Moment as you read about mine.  Understanding your Brody Moment can help you think about your motivations and move forward successfully with your entrepreneurial endeavors.

My Brody Moment came at the end of 1985 after I had opened 20 chapters of BNI® by accident – without a plan, without even trying. That’s when I realized that I had struck a chord in the business community.

The “Why” for BNI

I was a management consultant in Southern California and I needed referrals for my consulting practice. I needed referrals for my own business, and I hoped that I would be able to refer some of my friends. So, I put together a group where we could start passing business to each other.

I had previously gone to networks that were incredibly mercenary, everyone was trying to sell to me. I went to other groups that were totally social, with happy hour and hors d’oeuvres, but there was no business happening at those events.

I wanted something that had a focus on business without being mercenary and was relational but not transactional; something that wasn’t totally social because I wanted that relationship-building aspect that led to business. Therefore, I created a network that I hoped would satisfy those two considerations. 

I wanted to merge that focus on business with the relational aspect, and the glue that would hold it together is the principal core value of Givers Gain® – the idea that if I help you and you help me, we will all benefit by working together.

That one networking group led to another and another until there were twenty chapters within 12 months! That first year, I was method-acting my way through the process; I was figuring it out as I went. I was young – 28 years old when I started the company, and I really thought most businesses had this figured out. The thing is, nobody had it figured out because we don’t teach business networking in colleges and universities anywhere in the world. What I didn’t expect to find was that everyone has this challenge and that was my Brody Moment.

BNI was an example of necessity being the mother of invention and it helped a lot of businesses. At the end of 1985, I figured out that I “was going to need a bigger boat”. This way of business networking was going to be much larger than I anticipated, so I sat down and created my business plan to scale the company.

A BIG Goal

In June of 1986, I had a goal in mind. I went to the library to gather information on populations. (Remember, at that time there was no such thing as Google.)
After extensive research and many calculations, I felt that BNI could have 10,000 chapters someday.

Shortly after that, I told a friend that I thought there could be 10,000 groups someday. And he said, “10,000?” I replied, “Yeah, I think it’s possible.”
Then he asked me, “And how many groups do you have now?”
I answered, “30.”
He said, “And you think you could have 10,000?”
“Yes, I think it’s possible,” I replied.
To which he said, “It’s good to have goals, Ivan.”

Yes, it was a big goal. And every year, near the end of December, I took time to reflect. I had read the E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber early on and used that as a baseline strategy. I looked at what was working well, and what didn’t work at all.
Each year, I adjusted my plan and revisited the small goals that were all striving toward that one big goal of scaling my company into a global enterprise.

In December 2020, we reached it – BNI had grown to more than 10,000 chapters! And we continue to grow, helping BNI members around the world do business through referral marketing.

As a leader, you’ve probably experienced a few Brody Moments over the course of your career, and you’ve probably got a few more coming. What you do as a result, and how fast you do it, can turn a Brody Moment into a defining moment.

Relationships + Referrals = Revenuestring(35) "Relationships + Referrals = Revenue"

Successful business networking is based on developing relationships with the people in our networks. When people get to know, like and trust each other, they are willing to make introductions and referrals to contacts in their other networks. Those referrals can turn into new customers and clients, adding new sales for our business. That is how Relationships + Referrals = Revenue.

Relationships

To create success and harmony in our lives, it is important to build and maintain our  relationships – in our home, in our work, and in our community.

HOME
We get busy with day-to-day life, especially if we are working from home, and sometimes we take our family for granted. Remember to:
      – Be grateful. Tell the people in our homelife how much we appreciate them. Be specific, be sincere, and tell them often.
      – Show gratitude in a way that means something to them. We often treat others the way we like to be treated. Understanding behavior styles and recognizing the preferences of the people in our lives allows us to share our gratitude in a more meaningful way.  

WORK
Whether we are an entrepreneur or an employee, we spend a lot of time at work. We have business relationships with our team and co-workers.
Remember to:
      – Say thank you. YOU know how much you appreciate them, let them hear it.
      – Be helpful – ask, “How can I help you?” to create beneficial teamwork.
      – Avoid the “it’s not my job” attitude. Expect that everyone contributes in whatever way is needed to achieve success for all.

COMMUNITY
We are part of the community that we live in, whether it is small or large. Our community pulls together when times get tough and celebrates together when things go well.
Remember to:
      – Get involved with a service organization or a service project in your community.
      – Commit to regular attendance and participation with the groups you are part of.
      – Contribute your time, treasure, or talent to help others.

Referrals

We know that it takes time for others to have the confidence in us to get referrals from our network. When we have invested the time to establish strong relationships, and have given referrals to our networking partners, we move from visibility to credibility in the VCP Process®.  Remember to:
      – Actively listen and look for potential referrals for members of your network.
      – Follow up with networking partners to learn how the referrals you gave turned out.
      – Thank your referral partners for connecting with and taking care of the people you referred to them.

Revenue

We can only move to the “P” in the VCP Process – Profitability, after we have obtained credibility with our referral partners. This is after we have built strong and deep relationships, asked others how we can help them, and given referrals to them. That is when we begin to receive referrals for our business, and the revenue comes naturally as a result. Those referrals may come directly from people we gave referrals to, however, they often come from other indirect sources. When we give to others, in our home, our work, our community, it comes back to us in a variety of ways.

In BNI, we call this Givers Gain® and it is our principal Core Value. It is based on the age-old concept of what goes around comes around. Our relationships bring us referrals, which lead to revenue. When you help others, and they help you, everyone does better.

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