There is an almost hyper-level of activity surrounding networking, connecting and referrals for building business; it is not a new strategy – but it is one in which the craft of powerful introductions is being lost.
I am increasingly working with small and medium business owners – and their business development people – who are spending far too much time chasing referrals which are nothing more than a name flick. That are no better than the business card shuffle at a speed dating networking event.
Malcom Gladwell in his book ‘The Tipping Point’ talks about the Connector, the person who can rapidly and with ease connect people in a way which makes a real difference – and my experience is that the person who knows how to be ‘the connector’ grows their own business as rapidly as they grow the businesses of the people around them.
So how do you move from simply flicking referrals to creating powerful introductions?
1. Tell Me Why
The biggest roadblock in successfully following up referrals is understanding why the introduction is being made. Take 30 seconds to put context into the introduction. I need to know why you are introducing us and how you know the other party. I do not need to know how well you know the person, but I definitely need to understand how you know them, and why you are introducing them. The greatest frustration is in having the recommendation to call someone and no real idea why.
2. Make Communication Easy
Introductions are best done by email – even if you have discussed the introduction by phone or in person. The emails should be:
• To both the person you are referring and to me
• In a conversational style, but succinct and to the point
• Should include the contact details of the person you are introducing
• This means their full name, email and mobile phone number as a minimum
• Should include the contact details for me – full name, email and mobile phone number
3. Put All of Us On Notice
Let me know if you have told the person being introduced that I will be in touch in a certain time-frame. I like to take it one step further when I am making the introduction, and include a statement along the lines of “I have worked with Steven previously, and I know that he will be in touch within the next 24-48 hours.” It puts everyone on notice – the person being introduced that the introduction will be followed through, and reminding me of my own commitment to the follow through.
4. Manage Your Energy
In the pursuit of growth, I have noticed a lot of great business owners and leaders burning a lot of energy chasing referrals which simply dissipate and which quite often go nowhere. Not all introductions will end up in new business for you, or for anyone you know. This is where I encourage you to adopt the 3 strikes and out philosophy.
Always follow up within 24-48 hours, 72 hours at the outside. Always leave a voicemail if the other person doesn’t answer (you would be surprised how many people I have worked with who don’t let the other person know they are trying to call), and wherever possible follow up as close to the same time every day for 3 days. Where your own commitments leave little room to do this, then follow up at the same time, no more than 48 hours between each call. After three attempts to make contact, send a conversational email to the person being introduced and with a warm tone, let them know you have tried to contact them, acknowledge how busy our days can be, and pass the follow through back to them.
5. Say Thank You
Always send an email to the person making the introduction to say thank you, and let them know of the outcome. Whilst it is tempting with those introductions that seem to disappear before your eyes to let them know the ‘referral was useless”, it is also counter-productive. Every single time, thank them for the introduction, and let them know the outcome in very simple terms.
The key to growing your business through referral based strategies is to ensure that you understand how to make powerful introductions – and can show your networks how to do the same.