How to maximise referrals from networking
Everyone tells you ‘all my new business comes from networking’, but how many times have you felt like all your well-intentioned networking efforts are just a waste of your valuable time?
Here are 11 simple ways you can get more referrals and make more sales from networking:
1. Network with the right people.
It’s easy to network in the wrong place – if you want to win new business you need to be in front of perspective clients. so often business owners take the easier option of networking with colleagues or associate companies, rather than getting out of their comfort zone to explore new groups and events. Don’t spend time and energy on companies that just aren’t prospects! It’s not hard to find free introductory sessions or trial meetings, and while it might seem daunting, many of the other people there will be feeling exactly the same.
2. Perfect your message
Keep it simple, short and punchy – we can all spend 30 minutes talking about all the great things our business does, but that is just not what a perspective customer wants to hear. ‘To help you do A I can do B’ – focus on their needs and problems and explain, briefly how you can offer an effective solution. At a busy networking session or in a day at a show, perspective clients will only remember one line of your conversation – make sure that line is short, persuasive and memorable.
3. Define your perfect customer
Understanding who exactly you’re targeting will help you immensely in your marketing, but also in your networking. If you are able to express specifically who your target market is to your network, they are more likely to refer when they come across someone who fits that demographic. Consider your ideal customer’s age, location, income bracket, ethnicity, family status etc. Being clear is the name of the game and will make your connections feel more confident when making a referral that you will actually be able to deliver.
4. Don’t wait to get started
A successful sales pipeline is one that is consistently full. If you wait until your pipeline is empty before looking for new leads or referrals, you’ll find you don’t make sales during the time it takes to convert new leads. So, try and make sure you have a consistent source of referrals, put the work in before your pipeline is empty and hopefully you’ll find the leads waiting for you when you need them.
5. Build a referral network
Not everyone you meet is a potential customer, but they all will know someone who is! As above in point 1, you really want to spend your time pitching real, valuable prospects. But there is enormous value to having a network of keen referrers spreading your message and lining up new clients for you. So, make sure potential referrers understand the value you offer to clients and believe that you will deliver it.
6. Offer a commission
Realistically, most people you network with are thinking ‘what’s in it for me?’. So make sure they know that they’ll earn commission on any referral that becomes a client with you. It’s a great way to keep your company at the front of your network’s minds when they are talking to their network.
7. Give referrals to others
One of the best ways to get referrals is to give them yourself. Make it your business to know what your connections do, and when the opportunity arises with your clients or network, give them a referral. Your network is much more likely to give you one if you have given them one first.
8. Say thank you
Recognising your referral sources doesn’t have to be hard or take up a lot of time, a simple phone call or thank you email will often suffice. We all like to feel appreciated, and your connections are likely to give you repeat referrals if they can see you are grateful and considerate enough to express your thanks. It also shows that you are a nice person to do business with, which is a huge step in the trust building needed to make sales these days.
Don’t forget to simply ask for referrals. It’s easy to do the very British thing and keep quiet but try asking your new and existing clients if they know anyone who would benefit from your product or service. Similarly, when you’re networking and feel comfortable with someone, ask them if they know anyone that would benefit from being introduced to you. You’ll notice many more referrals coming your way just by asking for them at the right time!
10. Have fun
Most people aren’t comfortable introducing themselves to new contacts, don’t feel you have to be the life and soul of the party from the minute you enter the room. Like anything else, start simple with a short, effective message, be yourself and the more you do it the easier it gets!
11. Follow up
It’s not enough to make a great first impression with a winning credible pitch. Like everyone else, your prospects are busy and once they get back to the office it is so easy for them to forget you. Fortunately, there are so many ways to follow up an initial conversation; a simple ‘great to meet you’ email asking if it’s ok to stay in touch, a LinkedIn connection with a short message, including them in a monthly newsletter, or a telephone call the following week, will all re-enforce your initial message and keep you in their thoughts.
At your end, you need a CRM system which records, not just their contact details, but the information you need to make your contact personal and effective, for example when their current contract expires or what features are important to them. There are plenty of CRM options out there, many are free or include a free trial so find something that works for you.
There really are hundreds of networking organisations and groups out there. Many offer training or introductions to the skills involved. Find a format, duration and time that works for you and get stuck in! 4networking, BNI, local Chambers of Commerce and FSB all offer groups, and you’ll also find lots of local options too.
If you’re in the North, the best place you can visit is The Northern Business Expo on 17th & 18th March at Manchester Central. It’s the biggest business event in the North of England and it’s free to come along. You’ll be able to try out four different networking companies for free, along with fast-paced speed networking sessions run by Dell Small Business. There’s even an exclusive Networking Breakfast on 17th, which you can request an invitation to if you like. If you want to come to the event, you’ll simply need to get your free ticket online.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and spread the word about yourself, and enjoy the referrals when they start rolling in!