It’s the holidays and many of us are taking time out to enjoy the fruits of our labour. But the holidays are also a great time to invest in supercharging your network and referral generation efforts. Here are 9 ways to use the holidays to supercharge your referral generation whilst still enjoying yourself.
1. Get plenty of rest and look after yourself
As business people, most of us are ‘busy, busy, busy’ all the time. The holidays are the perfect time to rest and restore. Taking care of yourself allows you to start the new year fully charged and fully present.
This may not be the kind of advice you’d expect from a blogger who focusses on referrals and networking, but to be really great at helping others, we need to make sure we are in tip-top shape ourselves so we can make it through another hectic year.
Whatever it is you need to do to rest and recharge, do it – put it in your diary, set aside time and commit. I like to travel (and I do this regularly because that is a commitment I made to myself when I became a business owner) and I also like to up my fitness routine (I take my awesome travel yoga mat with me everywhere these days). Even if you only have a few days, make them yours and make them count.
If you can’t take time away from your business and give yourself the gift of time, you’ve simply bought yourself a job and you might as well go and work for someone else who will pay you for 4 weeks holiday a year.
You ARE your number one business asset, so look after yourself.
2. Catch up with friends you see irregularly
I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of friends who are always busy through the year. Many of my friends are academics so their year is often bonkas. The holidays are often the one time of the year I can get to see them in a calm state during the day.
This is also a great time to find out what’s happening in their lives and what they plan for the next year.
Recently I had lunch with a friend I see throughout the year in a group of people, but this was a one to one lunch. We talked about what was on the agenda for next year and I found out that a bathroom renovation was on the cards. Hey presto, a referral opportunity!
As it happens, I am currently having a bathroom renovated. I was able to talk about my experience and offer some advice as well as prepare my friend for a referral to the company doing my bathroom. My friend isn’t ready yet, so it’s not quite a referral, but I know to have another chat in April because that’s the time that will be right to make the introduction.
Of course, my friend is wrapped because he can ‘file that away’’ knowing I’ll be there to help when the time is right and that the referral will manage the project from end to end (I know this because I’ve had the experience myself and was able to give a testimonial).
3. Ask Questions
“What exciting things are you planning in the New Year” is my favourite open-ended holiday question.
This may seem like a simple conversation starter, but asking this question of new people you’re meeting at parties and events, old friends you’re catching up with and family you’re celebrating with will give you the opportunity to help solve some of their New Year challenges.
As I said in point 2, I was able to find a referral for a friend who needs a new bathroom. This made his life easier because he doesn’t need to research this. But I often hear people during the holidays talk about future travel plans and I have passed many referrals. I also hear many people talk about changes they want to make in their life and business. I’ve given referrals to many personal trainers at this time of year (because getting fit seems to be a theme at XMAS), bookkeepers (because people want time back) and business coaches (because people want to grow their business but need support doing this).
Ask more probing questions, offer support and you’ll be amazed at how many people you can help.
4. Complainers are a referral dream
OK, I’ll confess I generally don’t like people who whine a lot, but it is a referral bonanza. When I’m stuck in a conversation with a whinger I always ask:
“Are you wanting to solve that problem, or are you just having a whinge?”
Most people say they want to solve it in which case I can usually connect them with a referral source who works in that area.
The hot trigger phrases to listen out for are:
· I’m too tired to…
· I don’t have enough time to…
· I’m too ‘fat’ ‘thin’ ‘out of shape’ to…
· I wish I had the ….. to …..
· I could never do …
· I’m dying to go to ‘Paris’, Thailand’ but I can’t because…
· I’m not making enough money to …
· My business is too …
· I can’t find quality… ‘staff’ ‘clients’ ‘suppliers’ to …
· My customers are driving me crazy because …
· I don’t have enough business…
Any of these (and many more) are simply triggers to give you the opportunity to ask “Are you wanting to solve that problem, or are you just having a whinge?”. Try it and you’ll be amazed at how many people you can help and the added bonus is, you can stop a whinger dead in their tracks and turn the conversation into a positive and productive one and that’s ALWAYS a good thing.
5. Get to know your referral partners better
Passing great referrals necessitates that you know your referral partners well. This time of year is the perfect time to get to know the kind of business people in your network are looking for.
Don’t assume you know what I need in my business even if you’ve known me for years. Things change, my goals shift, my experience grows and I look for new opportunities. Invest the time in your network and you’ll be amazed at what new things you’ll learn, quality referrals like anything take work. As Dr Ivan Misner says, it’s called net-WORK not net-SIT for a reason.
6. Refresh your networking tools
Teaching your network about your own business requires preparation. If you’re in BNI, this is the perfect time to refresh your G.A.I.N.S. profile – if it’s more than a year since you updated it, I am pretty sure it will have changed.
Invest some time writing down the kind of clients you want connections to. A list of your past 10 customers is a great way to train your network on the kind of business you want. You’ll need to articulate WHY they came to you, the process you undertook to solve their problem and the outcome they achieved, all wrapped up in a story because ‘facts tell but stories SELL’ (we connect with emotions). Nothing is more powerful than a good story, so brush up your arsenal of success stories to share with your network.
It may seem obvious, but check your business card supplies, after all, you have another year of networking to get through and no matter have much we move online these days, nothing beats ‘in person’ connections and your business card is the perfect tool Check this article I wrote about what constitutes a great business card
7. Research where you plan to network in the New Year.
Whilst I own the local Melbourne BNI franchise and I have the opportunity to network with many people every year through BNI, I also look to network outside of BNI because I want to meet new people.
This often surprises people who know me, especially if they turn up to an event outside of BNI that I’m at. I always reply by saying “you can’t keep all your eggs in one basket” and it’s true, breadth and diversity make for a robust network. Check this article out that I wrote earlier this year on the subject.
I like to research events that are coming up on the Calendar. I use google, Meetup and social media to research where I might invest my time meeting new people. I also belong to a professional speaker association and I try to schedule their events into my calendar as far forward as possible and I find this is the key; locking them into my diary now because if I don’t do that, I schedule other things and miss out.
8. Plan for professional development
If you’ve ever been to one of my live sessions, no doubt you’ve heard me say many times that if you’re not growing (in business or life) you’re dying. I really believe this and as such, I continually seek out opportunities to self educate, but as things are quieter, the holidays are a good time to do my research.
BNI provides lots of opportunities for members from BNI University, to podcasts and live training sessions. Equipping yourself with the skills to be better networkers and members should be a no-brainer.
If you’re not a member of BNI, there are plenty of opportunities to further educate yourself on networking. A lot of BNI material is open sourced so you can learn about how the world’s largest referral organisation teaches referral generation. There are also plenty of books on the subject, online course and of course my blog.
But don’t stop at learning about networking. I’m using these holidays to go on a retreat on mindfully planning my new year. I love taking time out to do this sort of education because as the year gets going, it’s harder to schedule the time to do this. I also look out for relevant courses, conferences and events that will help me and my business and I schedule them into my calendar so my year is pretty planned out by mid January.
Your self-education could be as simple as reading a book. If you want some suggestions, my two hot tips are “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olsen that my fabulous friend Hazel Walker suggested many years ago, “The Abundance Project” by Derek Rydall and the new book by Dr Ivan Misner “Who’s in you room”.
9. Set your referral goals for the new year
Members of BNI will know and understand this concept. It stems from the organisation’s philosophy of “Givers Gain”.
We set goals for our own business and what we want, but how often do you set a goal for helping other people? If you get to read Derek Rydall’s book, “The Abundance Project” you’ll understand that flow in life is essential to success and this involves giving to others. But time gets by and as the year moves on, if you have not set yourself a goal of giving to others in some way, you’ll forget.
Start by committing to finding ONE quality referral for ONE person you know like and trust each month. That could be 12 for one person or one for 12 people. Either way, when you commit and do the work, you’re most likely to find many more than one referral per month – it will become a habit and as you exercise that referral muscle, it will because easier and easier.
To achieve this, you’re going to have to follow a few steps to get an outcome. Start with finding out exactly what kind of referrals your network is looking for. Sit down with them and plan just how you’re going to turn their request into a reality. This will involve you understanding the ‘who what why and how’ and may involve you teaching them how to teach you to find them the perfect business. Remember specific is terrific and the more specific they can be, the easier it will be for you to help them. This, like anything else is a process that takes time and planning.
Document your goal and document your successes. Come the end of the year, you may just have changed someone else’s life and what better year could you ask for?