By Carolyn Edlund
Want to gain more business through personal referrals and word of mouth? Who doesn’t? After all, personal recommendation is one of the most powerful ways to grow and expand your business.
Have you ever met someone who seems to know everybody? They have all kinds of business projects going on in different areas and just seem “successful”. It’s easy to see that they are operating on a higher level than just advertising and waiting for customers to come to them, or knocking on doors looking for leads.
These people have a network of connections – others who are happy to send referrals their way. They have become a “go-to person” who has established themselves and become a magnet for business.
You can create your own network of connections and start gaining personal recommendations too. Who can you network with? Just about anybody. Whether you pursue contacts through networking events, in professional organizations, in your neighborhood, church or social group – it’s up to you.
So, how can you network with people you would like to get referrals from? Here’s how:
- Keep in mind that it’s not about you. Ask others about their business, and show genuine interest. Find out what types of clients or connections they are looking for. Let them know that you are happy to refer business and that you will remember them. Tell them about yourself as well. Take their business card and email them later. You might arrange a meeting or lunch with them to get further information and get to know them better.
- Follow up. This is the most crucial step, and the one that is most often ignored. When you find good networking partners, you must build your relationship with them by future contact and letting them know that they are important to you. Poet laureate Maya Angelou once said “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. When others feel you sincerely want to be a strategic ally in their business, they will want to reciprocate.
- Freely give referrals to others without expecting anything in return. As you pay it forward, you will gradually start to see referrals come your way as well. These referrals will not necessarily be from the people you assisted. It may take time as you grow your network to see the fruits of your labor.
- Be open to receiving. There are two parts of referrals – giving them, and receiving them – two sides of one coin. Just as you gladly give referrals, with no strings attached, you should also be open to receiving referrals from others.
- Show your gratitude. There is an African proverb which says “Give without remembering and take without forgetting”. This applies here. Acknowledge those who have referred business to you, and strive to give referrals back to them. If you simply don’t have specific referrals for them, include them in social gatherings where they might meet others. Invite them to business events that may benefit them.
- Keep building more relationships. Work toward expanding your network on a regular basis. People may come and go in your life, but endeavor to stay in touch with key contacts by remembering birthdays or special events and communicating with them. As you grow your network, you will become known as a “connector” who benefits others by your referrals and introductions.
Create win-win relationships by giving referrals freely, staying connected with others and pursuing new contacts on a regular basis. It takes work, but with lots of practice it becomes automatic. A great side benefit of networking is that you can also develop many personal friendships as well. Resolve to take the first step and introduce yourself to someone you can help by giving your first referral.