Getting referrals is about effective business networking. The bringing together of like-minded individuals who, through relationship building, become walking, talking advertisements for one another.
That’s why I prefer BNI; it’s a turnkey system that is proven to work time and time again when you follow the system. To me, effective networking is about being real, building trust, and seeing how your relationships can genuinely help others. I always look for ways to give first. Here are eight ways to enhance your networking and referral after you give!
- Before you even walk into a room, figure out what you’re looking to gain. Know what your specific goal(s) are in attending every meeting. There’s always networking. Being clear on your goal for the event helps you to pick groups or associations that will help you get what you want.
- When you talk to others, be curious. Ask open-ended questions during your networking conversations, questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how. Try to avoid questions that require a simple yes or no response; those are called closed-end questions. By using an open-ended line of questioning, you can open up the discussion and show listeners that you are interested in the conversation. Make sure when you ask a question, that you listen to the response and do your best to avoid listening to respond.
- Become a walking resource center. When you become known as a strong resource, others remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. This keeps you at their “top of mind”. Top of mind is exactly where you want to be too!
- Make sure you have your “elevator speech” prepared and know it like the back of your hand. An elevator speech is commonly known as the response you would give in the amount of time it would take to reach the tenth floor of a building in an elevator. Always rehearse what you’re going to say so it comes off as genuine. You don’t want to sound automated when you respond to someone who asks what you do.
- Be aware of what is going on in current affairs. If you don’t feel comfortable just rolling into your elevator speech when you first meet someone, have a back-up topic to break the ice until you do. It’s good to ask about the other person’s interests and to use their name when in conversation.
- Never throw your business card at someone the minute you meet them, you should get to know the person and their business as well as explaining your business before you even contemplate a business card exchange. Some people will find you rude, pushy and unprofessional which will, in turn, reflect poorly on you and your business. I usually ask, “May I give you one of my business cards?” after I’ve asked them, “Do you have a business card?”
- It’s an excellent strategy to phone or email your new contacts and let them know that you enjoyed meeting them. If possible, mention things that you discussed on a more personal note (i.e., I hope you enjoyed that movie you were going to see that night). People will come to know you as someone who listens and remembers, which helps form a trust with you. The secret here is to take notes either during the conversation or immediately after. Remember, “Pale ink is better than the best memory.”
- The most important thing to remember is to follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. Under commit and over deliver is the best strategy. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. You should follow-up with your referral promptly and professionally. Respect and honor their trust and your referrals will grow exponentially.