Growing your business through positive word-of-mouth marketing is a simple concept, but it is hard to execute. Which is probably why so many business people I talk with every day do it wrong – or at least not very well. Sometimes we miss that which is right under our nose. Whether we are new to business networking or have been at it for several years, we often miss the forest for the trees. The following are the four most overlooked lessons I have found in my networking travels.
- The most important part of any networking meeting/event is everything outside the meeting. Structured meetings are great for introducing visitors to an organization, however, it is during “one-to-one” meetings that we learn more about who and how to refer to each other than during the meetings or events.
- Treat your Elevator Speech as a sales training moment, not a sales pitch. When you spend the bulk of your 30-60 seconds answering the question, “What do you do?” with what you actually do, it does not leave time to educate others as a sales force. Focus your Elevator Speech on teaching others how who specifically you work with and how to refer business to you. Then invest your conversation in figuring out how you can help others get what they need by way of clients and referrals – just don’t sell to others, learn how to sell through others.
- Asking to be introduced to referral sources will get you more business than asking for referrals. It is great to ask for someone who could use your product or service, and you should sometimes. You should also ask for referrals to people who can refer you to many potential clients. Why do people use your product or service? Who uses your product or service? Answer these questions, and then figure out who can connect you with several potential clients. For example, an event which often leads to the purchase of a home is a wedding. A realtor does well to ask for people who are getting married, but that same realtor can create a career by connecting with the right wedding planner, jeweler, photographer, etc. If a doctor is a good referral for you, ask to meet the chief of staff. If you can get them as an advocate, you have a steady stream of business. Massage therapists: Would a sports coach be a great referral for you? Think a level deeper to find a stream of referrals.
- As important as stating who is a great referral, is how to make that contact. This one came to me as a blinding flash of the obvious. If you are a printing company and specifically ask for a referral to the owner of a local manufacturer, your sales force needs a little more information on how to make that connection. Why is that a good referral for you? If I know that owner, what should I tell them? What should I ask them? How can I get you in front of them? When it is not obvious, it is your job to bridge that gap by training your fellow members how to generate this referral.