Educating Your Networking Partners Instead of Selling to Them

Educating the members of your business networking group about the type of referrals you would like to receive is much more important to your networking success than selling to the members.

Yes, this is a mindset shift about how you view your networking partners. It requires an understanding of the importance of educating your referral partners about your business. Remember, they are not the clients! Because these are the people who will be looking for referrals to pass to you, they need to learn about your business and about YOU. They are, in effect, your sales force. If you were training a sales team, how would you describe your products and services in a way for them to fully understand the benefits of what you have to offer? This is what you want to do at your networking meeting.

No one expects a referral group’s member to be an actual salesperson for all the other members. Yet, if you want referrals, the other members do need to be trained so they recognize potential customers for your business.

Resist the Urge to Sell

I’ve noticed that businesspeople have a tendency to “sell” to others they meet. When professionals join a networking group that has a focus on providing referrals for its members, they seem to think that by convincing them to try their product and closing the sale with their networking partners, they will somehow realize an influx of referrals for more of the same from those individuals. I agree that in order for the members of your networking group to refer you effectively, they must be familiar with what you have to offer. However, when you are in front of them, it is important to resist the urge to sell to the members! They will become familiar with your services and products through your consistent education about what you do, and specific descriptions of the people who are your target market.

Tips to Incorporate EDUCATING Into Your Networking

  1. Break your business down into its Keywords.
    At a networking meeting, it is very tempting to start out your personal introduction with a statement like: “we are a full-service XYZ company…” Resist this urge! When you have 50+ opportunities over the course of a year to introduce a new single keyword element of what it is that you are selling or providing, don’t waste the opportunity to feature one aspect of your business by painting with the full-service brush. Get detailed! Educate your networking partners week-by-week with a specific keyword that you provide.
    Feature a different aspect of your business and tell them who the ideal client is for that aspect during each weekly presentation.
  2. Avoid saying, “Does ‘anybody’ know ‘somebody’?”
    I often hear members of networking groups say things like “anybody who needs…” or “somebody who is looking for…” or “everyone with a car…” Usually, when I hear anybody or everyone, I tune out, because I know so many anyones and somebodies, that I end up referring no one! This is an interesting dynamic, but I think it has a lot to do with information overload. When you are asking for a specific type of business referral, your request to your networking partners should be specific! Using a catch phrase that is so broad and generic will limit the effectiveness of the results you will get.
  3. Teach your network members what your “dream referral” looks like.
    If you could come to your next business networking meeting with a walking, talking dream referral in tow, what would they be like? You want to be very descriptive of this person as you talk to your networking partners; make it so descriptive that it’s like that person is in the room with you. The more details you provide, the greater the chance that your partners will recognize that person when they come across them outside of the meeting! You can even include their name or their position in a specific company.
  4. Share customer stories.
    This is a highly effective way to educate your networking partners about who and what it is that you are looking for as a new customer. By sharing the qualities and aspects of your current clientele, you are illuminating the canvas for the rest of the group so they can see the picture you are portraying for them. When appropriate, consider bringing in a customer or client to talk about how you and your company have helped them. These kinds of interactions go a long way toward educating the group as to the type of person you wish to have referred to you.

Remember, successful networkers use their presentation time to “educate a sales force”  instead of trying to “close a sale.” Shift your intention in the group and you will find that the quality of referrals will shift for the better, too. Your time to close the sale will come when you are with the referrals that you receive from the group. By keeping your focus on educating your networking partners about what type of referrals you wish to receive from them, you will find that the referrals you get will be of a higher caliber and have more chances of becoming closed sales than if you try to sell your fellow members on what you are offering. Keep in mind that when you join a closed contact network, you are partnering with a group of people who will become, in essence, your sales force. To help them help you, you need to educate, educate, educate.

What are some phrases you use to educate your network on the products and services you offer? Are there any tactics that you tried that simply don’t work? Let me know in the comments below.




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2 thoughts on “Educating Your Networking Partners Instead of Selling to Them

  1. When I was a BNI director I tried to turn members mindsets to when they walked in the door of a BNI meeting that they were the CEO of XYZ chapter with a bunch of new recruits in the room that knew very little about what they did as a business owner and they were responsible to teach about their industry, what service or product they provided or sold, what their ideal client looked like, and about relationships. Feeling that they held the position of responsibility to train those ppl in the room gave them a different mindset. PS. Loved my days as a chapter director

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