Frank Agin, host of Networking Rx and founder of AmSpirit Business Connections, has a conversation with Matt Ward (speaker, author and consultant) about the concept of care packages. Learn more about Matt at https://breakthrough-champion.com/
Far too often, people figuratively chain themselves to their computer and clank away in LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter hoping to create business for themselves. While they may stumble onto some, it seldom reaches the level they hope for.
Know this… Social media (and especially LinkedIn) is not a sales machine… it is not an order-taking system…it is not an ATM. It is merely a tool that you can use to better network yourself … It is not a replacement for networking.
Think of it in terms of this analogy … We networked before we had phones. People worldwide and people in this country built vast and complex civilizations long before they had any sort of electronic telecommunications. They were able to network themselves … Word-of-mouth, couriers and carrier pigeons did the trick. Back in the day, people did business and associated with those they knew, they liked and they trusted.
When the telephone came along, it did not change the underlying aspects of networking. It just made it easier. But they still did business with those they knew, they liked and they trusted. The telephone was just a tool.
The same is true of social media (such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter). It is just a tool. It is not networking. It is just a tool to make it easier to get to know people, determine if we like them, and then ultimately trust them.
Frank Agin, host of Networking Rx and founder of AmSpirit Business Connections, relates the social science concept of broken windows to professional relationships and business networking.
Frank Agin, host of Networking Rx and founder of AmSpirit Business Connections, shares some insight on general types of requests as well as how and when they’re appropriate.
Congratulations! You’ve established relationships and empowered that network. Great! But remember there is no such thing as perpetual motion. Too often, people work hard to create a referral machine only to watch it break down because they erroneously assume that an empowered network will just keep kicking out referrals.
Think of it like pushing a car: You have to work really hard to get the car rolling. Once the car is rolling you only have to exert mild force to keep it moving. But don’t let it stop because then it is like starting all over.
Establishing relationships and empowering the network is the Herculean push to get things moving. The mild force to keep it all moving involves three things.
Ask: Continue to ask for referrals, including things your network might not see. Don’t get frustrated if they are not referring things that seem obvious to you. Remember, they don’t live in your world and don’t see it as you do. So ask!
Can you introduce me to…?
Could you connect me to speak at this event?
Would you keep your eyes open for…?
Appreciate: No matter what your network does for you, thank them. If a referral goes nowhere, thank them anyway. Why? The fact they are thinking of you is excuse enough to celebrate. Your referral machine is working!
Also, appreciation is a wonderful motivator. Dole it out and people will do whatever it takes to get more. Few people thank others. You will set yourself apart when you show your appreciation.
Clarify: No matter how well you educate and empower, your network is going to get it wrong from time to time. They want to help you, but they are going to send you referrals that are, well, bad.
Don’t get frustrated. They want to help and they are trying. Reconnect with them and clarify your request. One small correction in how they perceive what a good referral for you is could spell the difference between continued bad referrals and a great new client.
Frank Agin, host of Networking Rx and founder of AmSpirit Business Connections, talks about the power and impact that smiling has on your networking presence.
Frank Agin, host of Networking Rx and founder of AmSpirit Business Connections, explores an article by James Currier (@jamescurrier) on how your network gently guides your life. You can read Currier’s article at https://www.nfx.com/post/your-life-network-effects.
Establishing relationships is an important first step. In so doing, you have built a network of people who are really behind you. Again, they know, like and trust you. This alone does not create a referral machine, however. Before your network can refer you, they need to be empowered. Empowered to recognize opportunities for you as well as empowered to talk or communicate about you.
People within your network do not magically know how to refer you. First, they need to know who to refer you to and they need to know when to refer you. To make this happen, it is entirely up to you to empower them to recognize these opportunities.
Consider franchise brokerage (though this applies to any business or profession). Certainly if someone comes out and says, “I am looking to buy a franchise”, your network should know to think of and refer you. But what about all the times that someone could be a great client but does not say they are looking to buy a franchise (or they do not even know that franchise ownership is an option)?
- What about the person whose spouse is looking to have their own business?
- What about the displaced executive who might not be interested in getting back into the grind?
- What about the mid-level manager that wants a way out of the grind?
If you want to create a referral machine, it is your job to paint a picture in the minds of your network as to who is a good referral candidate and what is a good situation. Here are three great ways to do this.
(1) Develop a series of short 30-second commercials that concisely convey what you are looking for and what you do. Again, develop a series, so that you have a varied message. Write these out and practice them, then use them as often as possible. For help on this find the short series on 30-second commercials.
(2) Even if you have a great 30-second commercial, people are not going to fully remember what you have to say. To overcome this, develop (again) a series of short summaries outlining what you are looking for. Make these short and simple (so simple that a 5th grader could understand them). Then neatly type and print them out (or even have them professionally printed) so you can quickly and easily hand them out, mail, or e-mail them to your network.
(3) If you give people the basic facts, they might politely listen. But if you weave these facts within a compelling story, example or analogy, they will be enthralled by what you have to say. If you have experiences, share them. If you do not have experiences, then talk to someone who does and borrow theirs. If you have neither experience nor access to someone who does, make it up. In this situation, it is not stealing to make someone else’s experiences your own. It is not lying to craft a story that has not occurred. You are doing this to paint a picture of what a good referral looks like.
In Part 6, we will address empowering your referral machine.
Okay, there are lots of potential people with whom to establish a relationship. What about the “HOW”? How can you make this happen?
Yes, there are lots of people. That is generally not the problem. That is seldom people’s shortcoming in creating a referral machine. It is the “how” that trips people up.
In establishing relationships, there are three main categories of activities you need to consider making part of your personal regimen. (1) Giving or adding value to others; (2) Ensuring that you become involved; and (3) Making sure that you are dependable or reliable in what you say and do.
First, when people hear the term “GIVING TO OTHERS”, they tend to conjure up images of dragging out their wallets. That is not the case at all. There are lots of things you can do in giving or adding value to others.
- Doing business with others.
- Sending them referrals.
- Providing them with information.
- Spurring them on.
- Introducing them to others.
Each of these things adds value to others. The key part of all of this, however, is that when you add value to others, they cannot help but feel they know you, like you, and trust you. And somehow, they are quietly compelled to return the deed at some point in time.
Second, another means of establishing relationships is getting involved with your community.
Trust this, no matter where you live there are business groups, charities and civic initiatives that could use your time, talent and energy. When you get involved in your community, it raises your level of exposure and it demonstrates your commitment. With these things, people cannot help but feel they know you, like you and trust you, which is exactly what you need to start establishing relationships and to create a referral machine.
Finally, adding value and getting involved are great for establishing relationships. You, however, will undermine the entire process if you are not reliable. With even an innocent infraction of unreliability, you can kill your chances of getting referrals. Be reliable … be on time … do what you say… follow-up, as you promise. And if for some reason you are unable to do these things, alert the person who might be relying on you as soon as possible.
This may all seem like common sense. It is. However, it is not common practice. It has tripped up even those with the best of intentions. Guard against this.
Nevertheless, once you have these relationships established, you can start to put your referral machine to work. That is the subject of Part 5.
The important first step to creating a referral machine is establishing relationships. This all begs two important questions: (1) WITH WHOM should I establish these relationships? And then even more importantly, (2) HOW do I go about establishing these relationships?
As to with whom you should establish relationships, there is no magic or secrets. They are all around you. First, start with the people you already know. Why? The people you already know, presumably already know, like and trust you. Far too often, when people embark on creating a referral machine, they become fixated on people they have never met before.
Think about it. You know tons of people right now – friends from the community or school, former colleagues, existing or past clients. This represents a treasure trove of raw materials with which to work.
Second, develop a list of strategic partners. Ask yourself this – who are the people that do not compete with you, but who run in the circles where you would like to be running? What is the profile of a good potential client for you and who might be servicing them?
Third, everyone is connected. Everyone knows someone who might be a good potential referral for you (although they may not realize it). This is not to say that you need to establish a relationship with everyone. What it does say, though, is do not dismiss anyone. Give everyone attention and respect.
As to HOW, we cover that in Part 4.