What is RIRO, and why is it so important for networkers? RIRO stands for Referrals In, Referrals Out. Sounds simple enough, but in the world of networking, if you don’t have a good handle on your RIRO stats, you don’t—and can’t—understand the value of your network. That is, you don’t truly know who’s helping you the most and who you are helping the most.

Understanding how your network is serving you and how you are serving it is crucial for increasing its efficiency—regardless of which networking strategies you are pursuing.

Today we can distinguish three kinds of networking approaches, commonly referred to as Go Deep, Go Wide and Go Global.

1. Go-Deep groups allow only “one of a kind” as members, for example each group can have only one Realtor®, one dentist, one accountant, and so on. Some of these groups track referrals.

2. Go-Wide groups, such as Chambers of Commerce, have some internal accounting for the number of referrals they give to the membership. However, they rarely provide any tracking or reporting of referrals between members. This leaves many people with the impression that the most popular or the most visible are the best networkers—clearly not true for you if you’re not getting their referrals!

3. Online networking groups (Go Global) can be even more confusing—many people think that those with the most “friends” must be the best networkers. Not if you are measuring your results by the number one reason people network: referrals.

As in every area of life, knowledge is power. What we measure, we can improve. Enter RIRO.

Not only should you be maintaining and tracking your actual referrals from each of your strategies, you should also be taking advantage of this information so that you can become increasingly more productive. RIRO provides you with the focus to do this.

Here’s what to do:

1) Organize your network into logical groups.

Divide your network into four groups:

a) Circle of Influence or Power 25 (so called because you should limit this group to 25 people maximum);

b) Top 100 (since your Top 100 includes your Power 25, this group has 75 members);

c) Networking 250 (less the 100 already accounted for, this group contains 150 members);

d) Acquaintances (everyone not in your Networking 250).

Initially it may be ego-gratifying to include the powerful and most prestigious in your Circle of Influence or Power 25, but since no one is actually supposed to see your groupings, why let the non-contributors take up valuable space? Quit impressing—or deluding— yourself and let the facts

determine your actions. If you must, mention the big names in public; just don’t place them higher than they deserve in your groupings if they are not producing for you.

2) Set realistic expectations.

How many actual referrals should you expect from each person you’ve placed in your groups? This question requires that you understand basic networking math. As an example, write your numbers down before you continue reading:

  Number of Referrals Per Year, Month, Quarter or Week
Power 25 (Circle of Influence) _______________ ________________
Top 100 (75 people) _______________ ________________
Networking 250 (150 people) _______________ ________________
Acquaintances (not in above) _______________ ________________

It’s not uncommon for people who are new to this exercise to say that their most important “friends” should be giving them a referral at least once a week. If, using the above example, you receive just one referral per month from your Power group, one per quarter from your Top 100 and one per year from your Networking 250, you have an astounding 750 referrals annually! Perhaps each requires a follow-up face-to-face meeting. If each of these take as little as one hour, and there are no additional follow-ups required (how realistic is this?), you have 750 hours a year already committed. That’s before you attend another networking meeting or spend any additional time doing what you normally do to earn a living!

The good news/bad news is that most people don’t have a refined list of 250 networking contacts. This is good because you won’t be overwhelmed; it’s bad because it may put an unrealistic burden on the people you actually do network with.

If you expect to simply get all the referrals you can as quickly as you can from everyone you meet, you’ll have constant churn in your network, not to mention “bad press” from those whom you so carelessly exploited. Before you say out loud that your solution for that problem is to give a referral for every one you get, ask yourself if you are truly doing your job of filtering, or are you guilty of giving out names instead of quality referrals? If that’s the way you “reciprocate,” you’ll wind up losing both your newfound “friends” and the people in your network.

3) Begin tracking.

Establish a system to account for each referral you receive and each one you give. When you get really serious, track the dollars related to each referral.

4) Assess and adjust based on reality.

Review and adjust people in each group monthly. If you fail to religiously review your results, why track them? Don’t be surprised if you find that an acquaintance is giving you better referrals more consistently than someone in your higher-rated groups. If so, re-categorize based on the facts. Expect people to flow in and out of your groups.

If you don’t have a tracking system, find one! If you have questions about the RIRO concept, educate yourself or ask for help. Whatever you are doing in the meantime may be costing you more than you know.

JIM PENNY has been coaching and mentoring entrepreneurs
and Fortune 500 clients in networking and sales for
over thirty years. He is the author of
Networking Genius:
Getting the People You Know to Make You More
Successful Than You Ever Dreamed Possible! He is the
creator of the online Networking Genius Game Show.