Business is based on networking and referrals. Have you ever looked at how you get those referrals? Here are a couple of ways one can look at this:
Fishing for Referrals
Fishing involves setting the right bait, location, and luck. It is like hunting and bagging your limit. Or being at the “Referral Shooting Gallery” at the carnival. As the referrals move into our line of site, “Pow! I got one!” It’s probably not the best way to build a network of referrals. Perhaps you are at a business function (Business Association, Chamber of Commerce, etc.). You begin looking around the room for your next “catch.” You start talking to someone and after a few moments you realize, “This person can’t help me.” So you cut the conversation short and move your boat to another location (not unlike speed dating). You are basically asking, “What’s in it for me?” After a while the fish catch (no pun intended) on and know they are being used. After a while you run out of fish in the pond so you move to another group, etc. You might get some business generated this way but you will miss the full potential in front of you.
Farming for Referrals
It takes time and patience to be a farmer. I’m a city boy myself, but my wife grew up on a farm. I remember the first time I visited her folks. We went from pavement to gravel to dirt roads. The whole time the road kept getting narrower. I felt like an explorer! Then I saw an awful sight–a cow was throwing up its cud. I didn’t know what a cud was. I told my wife, “You better tell your neighbor to check his cows. One of them is sick and just vomited!” My wife laughed so hard I thought she was going to steer the car into a ditch where we would never be heard from again!
In the early spring farmers turn the soil over with a tractor and plow. Then the soil takes further breaking up (I’m sure that is a farm term). Then there is the placing of fertilizer, then planting of the seed. It’s not over yet—you have to put weed eater on the fields and if there is not enough water you have to set up irrigation. You also have to pray that the weather will cooperate.
As in farming, when it comes to referrals, you need to make the same effort. It takes the initial contact, followed up with phone calls, emails, Linkedin, and all of the other electronics that can keep us connected. It is important to show a genuine interest in other businesses and even send business their way (That’s right, I said their way!). You may not get business in return from your first line of contact, but they may very well tell others about you and your business. The end result is your “net” gets fuller and you have encouraged other businesses to partner with you.
Wally Johnston (c) 2013
Next Week: “Relationship Resurrection”