FLASHBACK ARTICLE FROM OCTOBER 2010
I spoke to a group of experienced professionals this week who network with one another regularly. It is a strong group in that its members really do have connections to most of the large companies in that community. They have the ability to pass high quality referrals – once they know, like and trust you!
I asked them first to write down who their best centers of influence/referral sources were. Then I asked them: “Where did you meet these people?” Their responses may give you an idea or two you had not considered.
1. Volunteer work
This had worked well for several people in the group including a relocation specialist at a real estate firm. Thomas J Stanley comments in his brilliant audio, Networking with Millionaires, “People see you at your best when you are doing something for a charitable cause.”
What people interpret from your character makes them more open to knowing you professionally. Plus you are meeting people in a non-threatening environment so others can get comfortable with you first.
Research done by marketing expert Harry Beckwith has found that most consumers do not choose a service provider because they are the best; they choose you because they are comfortable with you – it’s the same as with many of the people who get your business. You do not need your vet or dentist to be the best in the country, right? Just someone you know, like and trust.
The key here is to volunteer for something you truly care about and, if you have a business agenda too, to target one that attracts your target audience.
2. An existing client referred me to a great center of influence
A client referred an accountant to his attorney.
Do you ask your clients for such introductions?
3. Co-workers from previous jobs that I tracked down on LinkedIn
An IT professional mentioned that this had worked well for her. The relationship was such that she could return to them, reignite communication, and ask for referrals. You might need to bring some new value to them first (or at least buy them a drink!).
4. Complimentary businesses who target the same niche
This week I was working with an insurance agent who gets most of his business from the contracting industry. He had just met with a commercial banker who had the same target market. As we brainstormed, we realized that other potential complimentary referral sources could be approached: accountants, attorneys, engineers, architects and marketing firms all with the same niche. No, they won’t all be open to it, but most people are looking for business now!
5. Former competitors!
This one really intrigued me. Primarily, they became good referral sources after one party had left their original business. The competitors knew that this other person was good at what he did AND he had never bad-mouthed them when they were competitors.
He added, “I always tried to think long-term because I know things change. I try not to burn those kind of bridges – not when we are all in a fairly small business circle. Now I’m no longer a threat to them, they are sending me business – it’s great!”
6. Political affiliations
One member had found her best referral source from jointly helping to organize a fundraising event. Interestingly, taking a firm stand on a topic can make some people like you much more. It’s like finding out you support the same (often less-popular/non-local) team. Sure, you won’t win over everyone but do you really need to?
She also made the point – like with a charity – that this activity attracts people not working at Burger King. Nor do you generally meet struggling business owners at such events because they do not have the resources or time to do this.
Warning: You will meet such people at a chamber event (I know I used to be one of them!)
7. I was a client of theirs
The partner of a consulting firm said that his luxury home builder had become a great referral source. The consultant had also helped him pro bono with some HR software and this demonstration along with a good relationship helped to coach the contractor as to who made good clients for the consultant.
You should expect more from most people who get your business – your hard-earned money. Why shouldn’t at least some of them be referring you opportunities?
8. My clients have been my best referral sources
A financial advisor had found this the easiest way to get his best referrals.
9. Other members of this group!
Why be in a referral group if it doesn’t generate good referral sources?! A marketing consultant, business broker, insurance agent and promotional products supplier all chimed in on this.
10. I network within a niche
An employee benefits specialist has found that networking with HR professionals has worked well for her to develop her best centers of influence.
11. Someone who serves on our board
A banker mentioned that one of their board members was a terrific referral source. If you don’t have a board, you can treat some of your best contacts as if they are.
Pick one or two of these and schedule time to start doing them right away. Good luck!
FLASHBACK ARTICLE FROM OCTOBER 2010