I’ve recently been reviewing my lead generation strategy for the coming months and thinking particularly of how I get new business. A sizeable chunk of new business for me this year has come from Referrals and those Referrals have come from the Networking I do.
Most people know the names and venues for the popular local networking groups but just turning up to these groups isn’t enough I’ve found. There are other things that I believe make the difference between just networking and getting referrals from networking. Here are my thoughts...
It pays to be more specific about the networking you do. Think carefully about the profile of customers you want to do business with. Then work out who else knows them and could introduce you to them. The small business networks are great for many businesses but not all, so do your homework before you sign up to pay over any fees.
It’s imperative that you are good at what you do, be it printing, accountancy, manufacturing or whatever, and even better: that you are a Specialist. So think how you can improve yourself or your products to be the best you can – because who wants to refer someone that is less than great.
It’s important that you are friendly, approachable and a good listener, someone who can have a “conversation” with others rather than just talking incessantly about your own business. Most of us will have come across people at networking sessions who think the only way to get business is to push it onto others – before they’ve even asked if we are a potential purchaser.
A good networker who gets referrals is always happy to help others. The help could be the products or services they offer, or introductions they could make or money they could save you. But they are genuine people who are looking to help others. And they do this instinctively because they know that by helping others they help themselves.
BNI (Business Network International) runs on the principle of “Givers Gain”. And that’s my philosophy too. What harm can it do to help others? But the gains for you can be immense in terms of referrals and new business. In my experience, you don’t necessarily get reciprocal business from those you help, but it comes out of the ether. I don’t know how, but I’ve experience that it does.
And finally, the power of referrals comes from your ability to follow up and keep in touch with your network. It is not the job of your acquaintances to sell your products/services, or even remember who you are! It’s your job to remind them, talk to them and build the relationship. I find the easiest and most effective ways to do this are: send an email the same day you meet them, add them to your LinkedIn network and ask them to join your newsletter.
So think on, when you are networking, how you can spend your time wisely to increase your referrals and minimise your marketing spend.