In all aspects of business networking, there is a right and wrong way to do things. Or maybe, a better way over another to generate the response you hope for.
Ever got a call from your friend, Sally, who says, “Hey! I’ve to the best referral for you! Take this number down…his name is Bob!”
Reaching for the phone your hand shakes, just a little, with anticipation. “Easy, big fella!” You tell yourself. You dial, you’re ready, you’re set!
Bob picks up the phone.
You say, “Bob, this is (your name here), from ABC Widgets! I just talked with Sally who told me that I should give you a call! Here I am! Sally says you need me!”
A pause…longer than expected. Bob replies, “You’re who? Sally? I don’t know any Sally? Why did she tell you to call me? Widgets? I don’t need any widgets, in fact, don’t use them at all!”
Therein is the rub. What you thought was a “referral” and potentially a big sale, ended up as a cold call, to a completely uninterested party.
Here are a couple of tips that can help!
Tip #1: BE COMPLETELY CLEAR
When asking for your friends, co-workers, business networking group member to keep their eyes open for referrals to you, be clear with what you want. Really clear. Really specific.
Recently, Tim a cable company rep, and Gold Star Club member, was visiting with Sue, another member. Sue explained she was having a hard time finding referrals for him since everyone – something like 94% – already used his company’s service. Tim said, “OMG! Those are the people I’d like be referred to should and if they need upgrades to their current service or faster internet!” Sue’s response was, “You never told us that!”
A referral, as used here, is when someone I care about – client, family, friend, etc., has a need for a product or service that you handle. After suggesting you, and I secure permission to have you to call, I call you and pass the information on. They have a need. They trust me. I trust you will do a great job because I already know, like and trust you. The likelihood they will use you, is high. Very high. The trust they have for me, will transfer to you.
A Realtor I met in another group, said that they’d like to be “referred” to any for-sale-by-owners that members drive by. “Take a photo of their sign and text it to me.” That, my friends, is a “cold-call” waiting to happen, not a referral.
It would be significantly clearer if the agent said: “If your neighbor is considering a move, and may even want to try it themselves for a while, simply ask if I could give them a quick call. I’ve helped numerous folks sell on their own, most list with me, however, some do sell. I can help no matter what!”
Tip #2: BE REFERABLE
The very best way to be referable, is to be a referrer. We teach folks that in order to get business, you’ve got to give business. You may have to be the one to step up and really listen for referral opportunities for others.
You’ve probably heard someone today muttering about a problem they’re having that possibly could have been helped by someone you already know.
If you do any business networking at all, you’ve probably seen this guy: He comes late to every gathering; forces cards on anyone within arms reach; cares little, if at all about anyone else; has the “gimmie, gimmie” attitude = you give to me, I take all I can get. Don’t be that guy!
Tip #3: BE RELIABLE
When that call of the day comes in, and your buddy tells you they have a referral for you, don’t wait to call them tomorrow! Or the next day! Or next week! Call them right this minute, depending on the hour of the day you get the call. (Personally, I try not to make or take calls after 8:00 PM.) If a late call referral comes in, and it is really too late to connect with them today, you better believe I’d be on the phone by 8:30 AM. Or it could be a very short call right then and get permission to call them at a specific time in the morning.
For a plumber, it might mean they have a busted pipe and REALLY need a call now. You’ll know that from your buddy.
Tip #4: BE REALISTIC
You may not be able to live, simply off the referrals you receive…yet. Don’t give up! I wrote an earlier article about not quitting a networking group before payday. Relationships take time to build and grow.
Jerry, my heat and air man, discussed what happened after he joined one of our Gold Star Clubs.
He said: “I’ve never done any business networking with a group before and was very skeptical. I was told by several people that referral groups were a good thing, so I jumped in with both feet. I joined Gold Star in last quarter of 2012, and I made $800.00. It was more than I would have made without the group! The following calendar year I made $8,000 since people got a chance to know me and my work. I was liking this more and more! My second calendar year (2014), I will have closed almost $70,000 in gross referral dollars from my club, and this summer wasn’t even that hot.”
Just a few tips: Be Clear, Be Referable, Be Reliable, and Be Realistic.
If growing your business by 20%, 30% or even 50%, you’d do well to put a few of these ideas to work for you right now.