In Part One of this series, we discussed how referral organizations can be very effective at helping you sell your products and services. While there are already many established organizations you can join, this article assumes you have just begun your own group. If you have joined an existing organization, you will need to follow its particular set-up, while still following the principles outlined below.
Set a Definite Agenda
As the leader of the group, you are responsible for structuring the meeting. If not, it will turn into just another group of people getting together, socializing and thinking they are networking, but not actually accomplishing much.
Lasting about one hour, the meeting has two distinct parts: the pre-networking and the formal networking phase. Encourage members to arrive early to business-socialize during the informal pre-networking period. This helps develop the know you, like you, trust you feelings necessary for effective networking. The goal is to get to know as many people as possible on a personal basis.
During the formal networking phase, after calling the meeting to order, ask each person to briefly address the group. Participants should state their name, company, type of product or service they sell and types of leads and referrals they are looking for.
Develop Your Commercial
Develop a vignette, profile or short commercial about yourself. Use that every single time you introduce yourself and through repetition, what you do will become ingrained in your group members minds.
Heres a format for a short, effective commercial:
My name is Joe Sprazinski. The product/service I represent, __________, helps ______ to _________. An excellent prospect for me would be someone who __________.
Notice: Joe provides the feature, the benefit and his own answer to the key question: who would be a good prospect for him.
Avoid talking about the product or service. Simply say what it does for the end user and how other members can know how to spot a potential end user. Your commercial should total no more than fifteen or twenty seconds.
Thank PeopleOut Loud
Express your gratitude to those who gave you referrals at or since the previous meeting. Recognition is very important, and people appreciate it all the more when it is done in public. You can also send a personalized, handwritten thank-you note. Takes just a bit of extra time, but remember: behavior that receives positive reinforcement, gets repeated. (For a sample of my notecard you can download, send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Provide ReferralsOut Loud
Give out your leads and referrals publicly and enthusiastically. When the people in the group see you provide leads and referrals, even to other members, they know you have the potential to do the same for them. That, of course, will make them work harder to find leads and referrals for you and will result in a delightful cycle of success for everyone.
As you recruit members for your networking group, you need to sell them on
the fact that they will not necessarily receive many leads and referrals right
away. Successful networking is similar to planting seeds in an enormous garden:
it takes care, commitment, diligence and most of all, patience. Eventually,
all who proceed correctly and consistently will reap plenty of rewards.
Teach your fellow networkers these exact principles. Assure them that if they are willing to stick with it, they will create the results they desire: lots and lots of qualified leads and referrals and the foundation of a powerful network.
Members must not miss any meetings, except in an emergency. They need to schedule the meeting as a business appointment each and every week. Some people in my group quit after two sessions because they didnt get any business from the group. Thats hardly surprising: they hadnt given anyone else a chance to get to know them, like them and trust them. And even if they had, the timing might not have been quite right for reaping the benefits they were looking for. Joining a networking organization wont necessarily result in instant gratification. Some people are not willing to accept this fact and will therefore quit prematurely.
Heres a good illustration of how of this principle works: A member I once knew named Tom sold a fairly high-ticket item and patiently cultivated the group for over a year. He received some leads, but nothing substantial. Then, all of a sudden, a transaction came through in which three different members of the group all participated. It was truly a soap opera situation, with none of them even realizing that the others were involved in the same transaction, and Tom ended up harvesting a huge commission. To this day, and for obvious reasons, Tom remains a hard-core networker. He applies these principles diligently and is very successful.
Other members, depending on the type of market they are involved in, sometimes see referral-based business come in more quickly and more steadily. People in that category include florists, printers, chiropractors and others who sell products or services that are in frequent demand. Their primary focus should be the same: to cultivate relationships with their fellow members and earn the business of their 250-person sphere of influence as well.
Stay tuned for part three, where we will discuss the question Do you join an organization or build your own?
BOB BURG is a faculty memberof Networking University
and a frequent speaker at networking conventions. He is the author
of Endless Referrals, Winning Without Intimidation and
The Only Prospecting Guide Youll Ever Need.