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!

 

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