Don’t worry about large social business settings. You can build an excellent business network by quietly helping to solve problems and as a result, make lasting business contacts. Here are three great ways to get you on the road to building an excellent referral network that can help grow your business:
As you come across prospects for a business with whom you would like to network, make the referral and send that business (owner or salesperson) an email or note letting them know you gave them a referral and who you referred.
You probably cringe at the idea of business networking groups and their breakfast meetings, but do you take part in any social activities? You can still network in social situations and use those activities to build your business referral network! Maybe you’re in a local recreational activity (poker game with friends; quilting), local organization or cause (church; non-profit fund drive), hobby (fishing; boating), or sport (tennis; cycling). It could be almost anything that you do or attend regularly. These are all opportunities to develop friendships with people who have a common passion or interest like yours, help each other on a social level and eventually develop some networking opportunities. I’m absolutely positive that at least some of these people you meet will own a business or be in sales and could use referrals. This is an example of “doing what you love” and using that passion to build valuable networking relationships. There are connections that can eventually help you get more referrals and grow your business. An important thing to remember in these situations is to have fun first, make friends, and enjoy the social activity. Use natural opportunities to seek referrals (both giving and getting)… and don’t force any situation. Building your business this way is often slow, but can also yield very good results over time.
Consider an online business referral network that allows you to connect with local business people whom you can meet and create referral relationships. These online networks don’t make you go to meetings or do presentations like the local groups that gather weekly. If you join an online site, most of your interactions will be through their website. However, I would still recommend that you periodically talk to each business member in the network you create on at least a quarterly basis, if for not other reason than just to say “hi” and see how their business is going. It’s a great opportunity to ask them if you can help them with anything in particular, and also update them on your business. It’s important to realize that the internet doesn’t necessarily replace the phone and/or in-person interactions that you may need in order to make long-term business networking a real success. The internet simply it simply enhances your ability to network and automates some of the tasks.
Business networking doesn’t have to be about weekly group business meetings, presentations or putting yourself in very uncomfortable public situations. Great business networking is simply about helping people solve problems. By referring someone to a good business you are helping them solve an issue. By providing a referral to a good business that you know, you are helping them solve the problem of getting new customers. When you solve problems, people remember you… and with often try to help you in return. Business networking, especially when it involves the passing of a referral, is about trust. Trust is built over time. So, don’t worry about getting thrown into a random group of people at a local networking group. Seek out specific businesses that you trust and network within social activities that you enjoy. Online business referral networks that are made up of local members are also a non-aggressive, “soft” way to find business people who might like to be part of your personal referral network. Using any of these methods can help you on the path to building solid relationships that can help grow your business by getting more referrals.