Tag Archives: business networking

Make it easy for your referral sources

If you want to get more referrals from people in your network, you have to be able to make it easy for them to find and give those referrals to you.   They want to help you, but most will not step out of their comfort zone to make it happen,

Here are 5 things to help you start the process of making it easy;

1. What should I listen for? I am with people all of the time, and many of them are complaining about something, or sharing great news, or contemplating a decision. Each of these conversations present opportunities to develop referrals for you.

2. What visual clue might I see that would lead me to recommend or refer you? Are there things that are common to signals that a person might need you? Such as someone who’s car has a dent in it and you are an auto body shop owner.

3. Are there things that I might see that would help me recognize someone as your target market? Like a motor cycle or boat in a drive way for the insurance agent.

4. What kind of things might be happening that would lead me to believe that someone is in the market for your services? A child being born, and child going to college, or a new business that just opened?

5. Is there an activity that you clients often engage in? Such as running in mini-marathons, jogging, bike riding, working out, skiing, or any number of activities that would help me identify our clients?

The more you can paint a picture for your network members the easier it is going to be for them to help you. Unfortunately, this means that you have to give some thought to what and who you are looking for as clients. Anybody or everybody will not be as effective. Profile you clients and teach your network members how to spot the clues.

What were they thinking – 4 Biz Card Don’ts

business cards

business cards

I went to a networking event last week, and it was really a very good event, lots of vendors, lots of people in attendance and a great deal of networking going on.  But the one thing that I found very interesting was the very large table going down the center of one of the rooms.  On this table were hundreds of stacks of business cards and people were going around the table picking cards up from each of the stacks.  As I watched this go on, I had to ask myself; “What are they going to do with all of those cards that they are gathering?”

We become annoyed when people cold call us, we gripe, we complain and we sneer at the people calling us, but we put our cards out there for the taking.  Doesn’t laying your cards out on a table just cry out to others that you are open to be solicited? I know, I know, you thought that by having your business cards out there they were going to sell something for you,  not to you, right?

The next most common complaint that I hear from people everyday is the amount of Spam Email that they get.  Don’t you think that when you are laying your business cards out on a table for people to just pick up randomly you are asking to be put on a mailing list.

Here are 4 things that I do not recommend that you do with your business cards

1.  Don’t lay them out on a table so that others can just randomly pick them up.  There is no value in having a lot of people who have never met you, had a conversation with you or shaken your hand taking a bunch of your cards.

2.  Don’t put your cards on a bulletin board in the grocery store.  Let me ask you a question, have you ever made an appointment with a financial planner who’s card you pulled off of a bulletin board?  If you are the Financial Planner is this the level of clientele that you are really looking for?

3.  Don’t give your card to people who have not asked for it.  I go to networking event on occasion and I am amazed at how many people give me their business cards without ever having a conversation or little conversation with me.  Make sure that people ask for the card before you start handing them out.

4.  Don’t go around the room and lay one of your business cards all the way around the table.  I often see people lay their cards stuck in an ink pen with their logo around the tables of a networking event.  They want to make sure that everyone has their card.

Your business card is an extension of you and your business, it is the one thing that you leave behind that allows me to follow  up with you.  But, it does not sell anything and it does not create a relationship with me, that requires that you and I get face to face.

If you want to just randomly hand your cards out at least you should get something for it, so you can drop them into fish bowls and win free meals, free gym memberships, makeovers or a free financial reviews.  Just don’t be aggravated when you get cold called or spammed.

Referrals Require Trust

Trust, I recently reviewed a book on trust, I am not sure how many people read it but I will say in the world of referrals, trust is the most important aspect of the referral relationship.

I read blogs and articles all the time talking about your elevator pitch, your message, your handshake, your networking activities and blah, blah, blah.  While all of this is great information for “Networking” and developing your “Word of Mouth” marketing it is not the thing that will get you the level of referrals that you are looking for.  The reality is when it comes to referring you,  I don’t care how good your message is, if your handshake is the best and you are the best networker in town!

What I do care about is this:  IF I give you a referral, when you are done with that referral will I still look good in the eyes of the person I referred?  My reputation, what people think of me and about me is important to me. The number one reason that people do not pass “Qualified Referrals” is the trust issue.  They do not want to risk their name.

With very little trust I can give out all kinds of leads, because my name is not closely tied to the lead, it will not have a major affect on me if it goes bad so I don’t mind taking the chance.

I had to learn this the hard way,  I referred a person to one of my very good friends, we will call him Joe Smith.  Joe owned a very successful printing company who employed several hundred people.  One day Bill asked for a referral to Joe, I did not know Bill very well but he seemed OK,  so I referred him to Joe.

Bill was late to the first meeting, Bill did not follow up after the meeting in a timely manner, in fact Bill dropped the ball in many ways with Joe.  The very next time I saw Joe was at a cocktail party and of course the conversation came around to business and here is the comment that Joe made to the entire group, “Don’t let Hazel refer you to any of the Yahoos in her network, what a joke.”  Ouch!  Not only was I hurt by Bills poor performance, my entire network was now unable to be referred to Joe who actually was in need of many more services that my network could have provided.

Lessons learned:

1.  Only “refer” those whom your know well and have a high level of trust with.  I do not have to worry about my reputation when I put the referral in the hands of one of my trusted referral partners.

2.  Stay involved with the referral.  Had I bothered to follow up with both parties during and after the referral I would have known what was going on and could have saved my reputation as well as my networks. All to often we pass referrals and never think about them again.

3.  Give feedback to the person you referred, they may or may not be aware of the issue and at the very least they should know why you are not going to refer them again.

Sometimes the best lessons are the hardest lessons.  If you are getting a lot of low level leads from your network, ask yourself what you need to do to increase your trust.  Take time to build trust with people and you will find that the referrals you get are of a much higher quality.

If Referrals are Important, Why are they Random?

I am always interested in learning how people generate referrals for their business.  So, when I am networking I will ask the people I meet the following questions;  How much of your business is  by referral and the response is often 50% or more.  That always leads me to my next question, do you have a tracking system or is that a good guess?  It is usually just a guess.

For most networkers, referrals are completely random and go something like this:

If someone calls me up and ask me if I know someone who can help them, and if I can remember if I know someone who can help them and if I can find the number of that person and give it to the person who just called me, and if they will pick up the phone and call the person I recommended, then they got a referral!  The average networker is very excited because they believe that their network is working.  But it is completely random and reactive.

Do you have a system for generating referrals?  If referrals are important to your business, shouldn’t you have a system that you can count on?

Shouldn’t you know who you best referral sources are?

Shouldn’t you know how and when your referrals will show up?

Shouldn’t you have a system to track your networking activities?

Shouldn’t you have a system in place for thanking your referral sources?

Really, why are your referral random?

Organizations like the Referral Institute have created programs and software to help business professionals get out of the “If” referrals to developing a system that generates referrals consistently.

If referrals are important to you then why are they so random?  With organizations like the Referral Institute and books like The 29% Solution they do not have to be.

Collaboration between Networking Organizations Benefit All

intlweek2001

For years many of the Chambers of Commerce have considered BNI their competitor and in Indiana many people believed that Rainmakers and BNI were competitors, yesterday with Rave reviews from vendors, attendees, and speakers alike that myth has been busted.

Yesterday, Feb 5th, 2009 was the very First Int’l Networking Week Event in Indianapolis.  BNI, Rainmakers, Rainmaker University and Referral Institute went together to plan this event and attract other networking organizations to Collaborate with us.

The team of Lorraine Ball, Tony Sandlin, Hazel Walker and Nikki Lewallen whipped this event together like pros recruiting other organizations and getting people in the door. This team put the event together in less than six weeks bring groups together from all over the state.

International Networking Week proves that GIVERS GAIN works not only  individually but with organizations as well.  We had representatives from Confluence, Rainmakers, The Lawrence Chamber, The Bloomington Chamber, Toastmaster, Business Ownership Initiative, BPE and many more.  When organizations compete less and collaborate more the MEMBERS WIN!!!!

Next year the  event will double in size and in the years to come it will continue to grow and collaborate with even more organizations until it becomes the best Networking Event in the State of Indiana.

Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places

 Do you remember the old country western song about the guy going from place to place lookin for love? “I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places, lookin’ for love in too many places.”

Frankly, this should be the theme song for many of the business professionals running from networking event to networking event. Unfortunately, it is a poor way to find love and an even worse way to find good referral partners.

 Many business people spend their time attending one networking event after another, looking for leads, prospects and connections. Collecting cards, adding names to their Rolodex, their mailing list and their email list. They repeat this activity over and over again because it’s the best plan they have.

 Before you go to your next networking event, make a plan. Here are a few things you may want to think about before you head out the door:

  • Set 3 Goals you want to achieve at this networking event?
  • Who is your target market and will they be at this event?

  • Who are your best referral sources and how will attending this event help them?

  • What is your follow up system after the event?

  • What activities will you use to build trust with your network?

  • What activities will you use to give to your network?

Instead of looking for new people to build referral relationships with, take a look at who you already network with. Maybe your time would be better spent digging deeper into your existing network and building stronger relationships instead of adding additional people to your network.

Love takes time, so does building a strong network of people who will refer business to you regularly. Before you walk out the door to do more networking make a plan, you may find that the love your lookin for is already in your network.

 

Ask, then Ask Again

I teach a series of Networking Classes to beginning Networkers here in Indiana.  As we were summing up the class I asked each student, what is the most important thing that you have learned in this program?  Shane, EyeDesign Graphics & Advertising Co., summed it up beautifully.  He said, “What I learned is to build a great network you have to learn to ask twice.”  “Ask, how can I help them, then ask for what I need.”  Right on target!

 

Asking others how you can help them and finding ways to do it, is how you will build credibility with potential referral sources.  Many times when you ask someone the famous question, “How can I help you?” they often have no answer at all, and if they do have an answer then it is the usual “send me leads” statement.  They have not really given much thought to what others can do for them.  In this case, you may want to make some suggestions on how you might be able to help them.  Remember to use the 18 tactics; here are a couple of easy ones that you can always put to use.

 

1.  Invite them to an event with you.

2.  Ask them if they would like to put an article in your newsletter.

3.  Send out their information in your next client mailing.

4.  Introduce them to someone who could be a possible source for them.

5.  Quote them in one of your articles as an expert.

 

There are a great many things that you can do beyond, giving a referral or a lead.  Be creative, look outside the box.  Once you have helped someone else, then you will be ready to ask the second question.

 

Hazel M Walker

Are you Tracking Your Referrals?

 

Referrals can come to you from many different directions.  Some will come from people you meet at networking events, some may come to you from your customers, and others may come from your trained Referral Partners.  You will never know where they are coming from if you do not take the time to track your business.

 

Every time someone calls, ask the simple question, “How did you hear about us?”  Open a spreadsheet and track every customers or prospective customer’s response.

 

This simple task will allow you to identify where you may want to spend more time or money.  If you find you have one person who is acting as your advocate you will want to find ways to thank or reward that person.

 

Maybe you find that all the time you have spent at a particular organization has not paid off as well as you thought, but the place where you have been volunteering  has had the added benefit of being a gold mine of clients.  Now you will be able to make a sound decision about where you are spending your time.

 

Until you start tracking, it’s all guesswork and you may be ignoring some of your best sources.

The Underestimated Rolodex

I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard the following scenario; “Gee, I visited that networking group and I didn’t see anyone in there who could really help me with referrals.  Most of the members there are consumer businesses and I am business to business.”  Surprisingly, it is most often said with a  hint of arrogance, as if the person is to important to take time out to network with the consumer folks.   What a deadly assumption to make about someone else’s network.

Paul, Laura and Mike would quickly agree with the statement, “Never underestimate the power of another persons network.”  After all one of the largest referrals that Paul has ever received came from Laura, the Mary Kay representative in his networking group. 

Paul is the Vice President of a very successful commercial design company, working with organizations like hospitals, casinos and office complexes.  He counts on people like Mike,  a fellow member and architect, to pass him referrals and he knows the value of a strong network. 

Imagine his surprise when one morning Laura calls him to pass a referral that would turn out to be a national  account. Not only would that one referral put substantial dollars into the company’s pocket, it would play a role in Paul’s eventual promotion to vice president. 

As with all Mary Kay professionals, Laura has learned to listen to the needs of her clients and help them to get what they need. This is a practice that has helped her become a master networker.  One particular afternoon Laura listened to one of her friends, manager of a restaurant, complain about how shoddy the construction was, and how poorly the structure was laid  out, it just did not  have a good flow! 

Right away Laura thought of Paul, he taught her that the flow of a building was one of the most important aspects of what he did when working on design for a company.  Laura told her friend about Paul and arranged a meeting with the two of them.   Paul closed the deal, did some work for the restaurant and left the owner very happy with the results.  When it came time for them open their third location they naturally called on Paul.

Paul was able to refer Mike, the architect in his network, who helped to design the next new building.  This referral also flowed to a stain glass designer, landscape designer, contractors, and various other professions.  Paul and his company were asked to head up the design of all of the future restaurants as well as the prototype for a new restaurant concept.

Now, step back and think about how many times you have made an assumption about another persons contacts and networks.  It could be costing you more than you know.  Referral relationships are built on trust and knowledge. Dr. Ivan R. Misner, the founder of BNI, says in his book  World Best Know Marketing Secret, that it is very important to have a diversified network.  Not only for the sake of the referrals that you may get from your network,  but you are also  able to fill the needs of your clients on a professional and personal level.

When I owned my Insurance Brokerage Agency, one of the last things that I would always ask a client at the end of a meeting was, “Mr. Client, thank you for taking the time to meet with me, I appreciate your time and attention.  Now, that we are finished, let me ask you, what is the one item that is really causing you a problem that I might be able to help you with.”  My clients learned that not only was I there for all of their professional needs, I could help them in many aspects of their lives.  Having a strong, diverse network allowed me to build strong relationships with my them, they new I would ask, they got in the habit of calling me, and they new that I could help them with almost any issue they might have. I became a Gatekeeper and the go to person. 

Having a diverse network made up of people in the consumer business helps more than just you.  Take a moment and look at your network, is it diverse?  Is there a cosmetic professional, a beautician, wedding planner, photographer, vet or other consumer services?  Just because they do not sell to businesses does not mean they do not know business owners or decision makers.  Never underestimate the power of another persons Rolodex you could regret it!