Last week, I led a half-day workshop with the motivated accounting professionals of BlumShapiro, the largest regional accounting, tax and business consulting firm based in New England with offices in Connecticut (West Hartford and Shelton) and Massachusetts (Boston and Rockland). The title of the seminar was “Success by Association: how to grow your business through networking groups and professional affiliations.”
We examined the many professional benefits of being actively involved in networking groups, including industry associations, professional associations, college/alumni groups, diversity/affinity groups, chambers of commerce, BNI/Leads groups, volunteer service clubs and social clubs.
We agreed that there was a strong correlation between the level of your involvement and participation and the benefits that you receive. Just being a dues-paying member will not necessarily produce any business networking benefits for you or your organization.
I dream of (the referral) genie
One of the enticing benefits of belong to networking groups is the opportunity to receive referrals, leads and recommendations. Let’s face it, building business is a lot easier when you have other people recommend you to people and companies who are looking for and needing exactly what you offer. Here’s a fun quote from Jeffery Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible. (Hint: for the full effect, read this quote out loud and add a bit of attitude to it)
“And referrals – ooh, how we dream of having someone put in a good word for us with a person who works at a big company. With a referral, it’s so much easier to set up meetings with corporate decision makers. The very best referrals come from coworkers or peers inside the company. After that, trustworthy industry colleagues are great door openers. Without a referral, everything in sales is just that much harder.” – Jeffery Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible
What’s your referral history?
When it comes to referrals, there are two principles that I teach: 1) you have to give before you can get referrals; 2) you have to learn to ask for referrals.
Let’s start by reviewing your most recent referral history. See if you can fill in this table with names of people whom you have referred and who have referred you.
|My Referral History
(past 3 months)
If you are struggling with this task, chances are you have not yet figured out how to leverage referrals to create opportunities for yourself and others. Below is one of my favorite quotes about referrals. It comes from Bob Burg, one of the leading experts in the field of business referrals:
“All things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to those people they know, like and trust. That’s the ‘golden rule’ of business networking.” – Bob Burg, author and creator of Endless Referral Systems®.
Know, like and trust – these are the three conditions most dominant in the giving and receiving of referrals. Can you think of people who know, like and trust you? How about people that you know, like and trust? Of course you can! Now you are ready to prime the pump of referrals. It’s time for you to become more proactive in the process of giving and receiving referrals. It’s easier than you think.
Easy ways to refer others who you know, like and trust
- If you like a professional service or product, don’t keep it to yourself. Recommend it to others;
- If you can’t take a job or new project (for whatever reason), recommend someone else whom you think is qualified and can do a good job;
- If you believe in the quality of someone’s work or character, write them a LinkedIn recommendation;
- If you are thrilled with someone’s work, you can provide them with a testimonial for their work (written, video or audio);
- If you can vouch for the quality of a former employee or colleague (and you would actually hire them yourself if you were in the position), offer to serve as a job reference.
- If you like a book, write a positive review and post it on Amazon.com;
- Other ways you can refer others that you know, like and trust? _______________________________________
Confident ways to ask for referrals from others who know, like and trust you
- “Can you think of any other companies in your network that could also benefit from a project like the one we are doing for you? I’d greatly appreciate any referrals that you can provide.”
- “If you like the work we are doing for you, please recommend our services to other people in your network. May I give you a few of my business cards to share with others?”
- Would you be willing to give me a testimonial or letter of reference for the work that I have done for you?
- Can I include your company name/logo on my web site as a company to which we have provided services?
- I am looking to acquire more business in this industry sector and would appreciate any introductions or referrals that you could provide to me.
- How comfortable would you be to referring me and my services to your clients?
- Can you think of any of your clients that would be a good business fit for me and my company? Would you be open to making the introduction?
- If you come across anyone in your network who is needs help with __________, please feel free to refer me/my company.
- You have an amazing network of connections and I would be grateful if you would consider introducing me or referring to me to people that you think I can help.
- No advertising in the world is as powerful as a referral from a happy client. If you are happy with my services, feel free to refer me to your family and friends.
- Please know that I will I make it my top priority to take care of any clients that you refer my way.
- We are accepting new clients and would appreciate any referrals that you think would make a great match for our services.
- Is there anyone in your network that would make a good connection (or lead or referral) for me and my firm?
Your Networking Goal for the Week
This week, I want to you increase the number of times that you give referrals and ask for referrals. Use the table entitled My Referral History to track your referral activity.
If you have been thinking about asking a current client for a referral, but haven’t had the courage yet to ask, I want you to go for it this week.
If you have received a great referral in the recent past and have not yet properly acknowledged and thanked the referral source, I want to you to take the time to write a thank you note. In addition, think about who you might be able to refer them to.
If you are excited about the idea of leveraging referrals to build your business, consider forming a referral partner team. Read the blog I wrote on January 30, 2012 entitled Networking how-to: build a referral partner team.
May the referral genie be with you.