Are you an avid networker? Are you getting a significant proportion of your income from referrals? Maybe you’re missing this key ingredient – training your network.
I was having a coffee with my friend Harriett last year and she was telling me that she’d spent years and years networking but was getting very few serious referrals even though she was giving others a lot of business. Harriett wanted my help because she had no more time to network but needed more business for herself and was beginning to wonder whether she was unreferrable.
Over our lattes it became very obvious to me that Harriett was ‘doing’ a lot of networking and meeting a lot of people, even building trusting relationships with them. Where she was letting herself down was that she didn’t take the time to teach these people what a good referral looked like for her and the process she took referrals through to convert them to customers.
Harriett was in the insurance business, which you’d think would be easy to refer to, but switching insurers isn’t something people do without prompting. Harriett knew this but she never actually asked her network for business because she thought they’d see her as a pushy insurance sales person (breaking a stereotype isn’t she).
The first part of the plan was for me to help Harriett build a referral training pack that she could share with her network. This included:
- GAINS profile developed by Dr Ivan Misner of BNI
- A customer Avatar which graphically represented her target market
- A collection of case studies that outlined Harriet’s:
- Day to day clientele i.e.: bread and butter clients
- Quarterly big win clients i.e.: cream clients
- Dream clients
The second part of the plan was to help Harriet teach her network how to connect her with her ideal clients. By sitting down and teaching her network the problems that she solved for her clients we were able to create opportunities for her network to connect Harriet with the right kind of clients.
But let’s face it, insurance is boring, so we needed to make this engaging for her network and to do this Harriet needed to find stories. We’ve all heard it before, stories sell!
Armed with her referral training pack and her swag of stories, Harriet was ready to teach her network. But to make this truly effective Harriet needed to set some expectations with her network whenever they met. This not only made their time effectively, but it made Harriet sound incredibly professional.
But for this to really work, Harriet needed to cultivate an attitude of seeking to help others so that they wanted to help her. So, Harriet’s first task was to teach her network how to develop these tools for themselves so that they could teach her how to find them referrals.
The outcome of Harriet teaching her network how to help themselves and how to help her was that she was able to become the ‘go to’ girl. Harriet knows a LOT of people so this was not hard once her network taught her how to connect. In return, they went out of their way to find her business. As a result, Harriet joined her local BNI chapter and because she understood how to be a referrer, Harriet has very quickly become the top referrer in her new BNI chapter. But even if she had not joined BNI, Harriet would have enjoyed significantly more success than before.
The lesson to be learned from Harriet is that without a plan, networking for the sake of it simply will not generate a return on your time unless you have a plan to teach your network how to generate business. How much is your time worth – is it worth not having a plan?