Whether you are a “boomer” starting a second career or a “millennial” who has an entrepreneurial spirit, you cannot cultivate your business without developing professional relationships and establishing referral sources. Networking can be intimidating; but, it doesn’t need to be. We tell ourselves we don’t want to be brash by asking for business or referrals from our family, friends and acquaintances. We tend to believe that people who like, care and respect us will send business our way. You may get a referral or two this way; but, ask yourself, how often do your family members, friends or acquaintances send you referrals? Do they even know who is a good referral for you?
If you’re not in the habit of talking about the customers you serve, how you help people or what services you provide, how will anyone know what you can do for them? Inexperienced networkers tend to focus only on obtaining referrals through their current customers; thinking that if they provide quality customer service, people will refer others to them. There is no doubt, excellent customer service will get you some referrals, but certainly not enough to sustain your business for the long-term.
The most logical step, and one many business owners take to increase referrals, is to join organizational groups like the Chamber of Commerce, industry specific groups and referral-networking groups. These groups do help with name recognition and they provide opportunities to develop lasting relationships with group members. However, if you are not consistently talking about the services you provide and how you benefit your customers, you may end up just developing relationships with people you like and trust; but, who may not be sending you referrals.
You think you’ve done everything you’re supposed to in an attempt to develop a referral base; yet, your networking efforts go unrewarded. This may be because you are not training people how to refer to you. The good news is; anyone can be trained to refer business to you, including friends and family. A simple way to do this is to get them to listen for key words in their conversations with others. For example, words like headache, backache and even allergies and stomachache could all be key words for a Chiropractor. If people can identify these key words in the context of their conversations with others, they can, through you, offer a solution to someone’s predicament.
Coaching your friends, family and acquaintances to become aware of key words and notice issues that are important to you may also prompt you to think about concepts and key words that may be important to your referral sources. When you begin listening for referral source key words in your discussions with others, you are cultivating a true referral mind-set within yourself. This referral mind-set provides an opportunity to help someone you interact with solve a problem, by referring business to those in your network.
No matter the business, there are enough referrals for everyone. Creating unselfish and helpful partnerships, in any situation, whenever you are able, will increase your rate of referrals exponentially. I challenge you to begin looking for opportunities to educate others about key words that are important to you and in turn learn key words about other businesses and begin establishing mutually beneficial referral partnerships. Happy networking!