One of the biggest networking mistakes you can make is to dismiss someone too early, to assume that they have nothing to offer you because of their profession, their background, or some other reason, and you don’t pursue the relationship because of that assumption. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this happen a lot.
Well, the truth is you simply never know where your next great referral is going to come from. Which is why successful networkers make it a point to consistently connect with high-quality professionals from all fields, from any, and every, background.
Many times, I hear BNI members say, “I want to network with the CEO.” or “I want to network with the vice president.” Forget about trying to contact the VPs and high-level executives – they don’t want to hear another sales pitch.
You Don’t Know Who They Know
An important thing for all of us to remember about business networking is that any professional who is good at what he or she does will be well-connected to other highly successful businesspeople.
When I lived in southern California, I had a painting contractor whose services we used regularly. Through his work he came to know A-list Hollywood celebrities, among many other affluent people. He was one of the most connected people I knew at the time.
I have a favorite story, which I think illustrates this point perfectly. In this case, a multimillion-dollar referral (one of the biggest I had seen in BNI up to that point) was given by a dentist in Malaysia. She briefly shut down her practice to attend a networking conference in her area. There were opportunities for people to talk and exchange business, to make new friends and immerse themselves in an intense learning experience. She met one of the sponsors of the event, a BNI member from the United Kingdom, who was in the cargo transportation industry.
When she reopened her office a few days later, one of her clients asked her about the conference. This client was in a company that had a $1.5 billion USD shipping budget, and they were looking to streamline their operations, and he shared that he was ready to talk to other companies. The dentist said, “I have just the person for you.” She referred him to the conference sponsor she had recently met and the next day that sponsor in the UK got a phone call to set up an appointment with this gentleman, her client in Malaysia.
The result is that a dentist in a networking organization attended a networking conference, and participated in the conference, meeting new people and learning about their businesses. As a result, she was able to connect her client with someone she’d met at that conference–which led to the multimillion-dollar referral.
To me, it’s a classic example showing that it is really about the quality of business professionals that you’re networking with. They meet people who are decision makers. They get to know people who know people who are decision makers. And sometimes, they have them in the dental chair of their office. You don’t know who they know. And without investing your time to build business relationships with them, you won’t ever know.
The key element with effective networking groups is that it’s not just the businesses of your fellow members in the group. It is also about the people that those members know and are connected to. You just never know who you are going to meet and who your referral partners will have in their office, or whose home they are in, or who is sitting in the chair at their business.
You create opportunities for some great referrals when you surround yourself with quality business professionals. Do you have a story about a referral that came from an unusual source? I’d love to hear about it.