It’s easy to get frustrated when you’ve been networking for some time but you‘re not receiving any recommendations or new leads. Ute Wieczorek-King discusses the most common reasons networkers don’t get the results they want, and includes some simple tips to help you enhance your networking strategy.
Recently, I’ve both received and passed on a number of referrals and after more than 10 years of networking offline and online, I still get a buzz each time my networking efforts generate results.
It’s so exciting to get introduced to a new contact, especially when the referrer has told them so much about you, they already know you’re the right person to help.
It’s equally exciting to be able to make a high-impact introduction and then to discover that the people you connected are working together. The two women I linked up most recently were really excited to meet each other. I wasn’t surprised at all — as I knew both of them well, I knew they had lots in common and that they would click straight away.
Now, you may be thinking, “That’s all very well but I’ve been providing referrals for months without getting any back.” When networking fails to give you any tangible results, you may start to think it isn’t for you. Don’t give up! Instead, ask yourself a few searching questions:
Do people know and trust me?
People can’t get to know you properly just by reading your business card.
Have you had several separate conversations with people you trust, to help you find out more about each other? Can they feel confident that connecting with you will be a win-win for both of you?
The main reason why contacts won’t refer you is because they don’t trust you — or perhaps not yet. People are naturally risk averse — referring you and then finding that you were unreliable or unprofessional in any way, might risk their reputation.
My tip: Why not step up the number of your one-to-one meetings? You will build trust by using these meetings to understand your contacts better and finding out how best you can help them.
Do people really get what I do?
If you think you’re building strong relationships with people you trust and feel confident they trust you too, yet you’re still not receiving referrals, what else could be going on?
I once asked some of my close contacts to describe what I do and was rather surprised by their answers. They hadn’t understood clearly what I do as a coach and mentor! And I’m not alone — I know many micro-business owners (not just coaches) who struggle with their marketing message; it’s clearly not always easy to explain what you do.
Think back to when you last referred someone. I imagine you had a pretty good understanding of what they do, perhaps also knew their special strengths and their ideal customer? That’s how well your referrers need to know you.
My tip: If you want to get quality, strong referrals, use one-to-one meetings to get to know your contact better first. Following that, make sure you update them succinctly about your service and any recent developments.
It can be really useful to give recent examples of how specifically you’ve helped some of your clients. This clarity will make it much easier for your contact to recognise the opportunity that could lead to a referral.
Am I networking with the right people?
A few years ago, I discovered that there are a number of people who will never refer others.
Harsh as it may sound, some people are either too lazy or too busy to provide referrals. Or they are just not that interested in you and instead see you mainly as a potential customer — sadly, these people just don’t get networking.
Then there are people who genuinely don’t know your target customer or anyone linked to them. That may not be such a problem though as in my experience, you don’t always need to network purely with your target customer. People with a helping attitude will provide access to their networks, and you should never underestimate the size of those networks. Even if not obvious at first, you will eventually find a connection to people or companies in your target market.
My tip: Why not leave the groups that tolerate one-sided networking, or learn how to make your excuses politely as soon as you get cornered by the wrong person? Instead, always be on the look-out for the right people — those who understand the fundamental reciprocal element of networking, who are helpful, genuinely interested in others and really want to get to know you.
Focusing on the right people for you will create time and space for a better quality network built on trust, and lay the foundation for many more referrals to come your way.