Always prioritize helping and giving to others ahead of taking and receiving for yourself. That really is (or should be) your #1 networking priority!
That is often difficult for people who are new to networking because most were told that when you join a networking group you will get lots of referrals. That’s true AND it rarely happens as quickly as they expect.
Effective networkers are less concerned about what they might “get” in return for attending an event. They focus on helping others first! If you are more concerned about your ROI (return on investment) then you are missing the point. Getting yourself noticed expands your credibility and puts you in a better position to be a resource for assisting others. Networking is about helping others. Always ask, ““How can I help you?”“
When I give a business referral, I give it knowing that my own reputation is on the line. Bad leads reflect on you. Good referrals will get you noticed and attract others to you and your business. Good deeds and helpfulness tend to produce positive effects. They are usually remembered and often repaid. The giver builds reputation and trust. Referrals tend to be the result.
By the way… let’s stop calling business networking groups “leads” groups! I recommend calling them “referral” groups. There is a distinction that networkers must learn. There is a BIG difference between a lead and a referral. It’s very important to know the difference if you want to be a successful networker.
When someone in your network gives you a lead they are giving you a name to call, not a referral. As we help each other to find more business, why would we want to send our valued referral partners into the dark abyss of leads that most likely will never work out? It’s basically not much better than a cold-call. You don’t need them for that. You could purchase a random source of leads and get basically the same thing. You can get leads from the newspaper, the phone book, or the computer, etc.
A referral is the opportunity to do business. Referrals are much stronger than a lead in that this prospect has talked to your mutual acquaintance and is generally expecting your call. The best kind of referral is when someone gives you permission to use their name to get in the door. Those are the kind of referrals that have the highest closing rate. The referring networker has already set up some level of trust and rapport by recommending the person they’re referring. Those are “quality” referrals.
Successful business networking requires a commitment of time; time to develop the relationship. That takes time. Networking is about creating and enhancing long-term relationships and you can’t do that if you never give the relationship time to develop.
I will rarely ever give a referral to someone I just met for the first time. I want to know that if I take the time to offer them a referral that they will take care of the referral in a professional and timely manner. When I tell my referral that Joe Smith is the best plumber, Joe better do a terrific job contacting them immediately and doing his very best to fulfill their needs.
You must think of networking as primarily a way to connect, develop relationships, and help other people. By focusing on them you will benefit much more than if you are more interested in having them focus on you.
Helping others FIRST is your #1 networking priority! You look for ways to offer assistance to other members in your network of support. That may be referring them to someone they need to know, offering a tip that has worked well for you, or… in other words, find a need and fill it!
“Networking is using your creative talents to ‘help others’ achieve their goals as you cultivate a network of people strategically positioned to support you in your goals. . . expecting nothing in return!” ~ Larry James
Copyright © 2015 – Larry James. Adapted from Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Networking Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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