The Big Lie About Networking and Referrals

Fingers Crossed

“It’s all a lie, Watson”

I was slightly taken aback by this rather abrupt greeting from The Effective Detective. However, I recovered quickly and decided to play the game.

“To what are you referring to sir? Surely not all of life?”

“Clever Watson. Your sarcasm is noted. No, of course not all of life, merely a marketing technique that is pushed by pretty much everyone – networking and referrals,” The Detective answered, shooting me a sidelong look.

“Are you saying that networking and referrals are not actually good marketing techniques sir?” I asked, a sense of panic starting to grow.

“Have I alarmed you Watson?” The Detective smiled, and I realized that once again I had fallen into one of his verbal traps.

“A bit sir,” admitting that yes, once again he had tricked me.

“You may relax now Watson. I won’t destroy all of your beliefs. However, there is still a lie to be discussed here. This lie is one of omission. While networking and referrals are excellent sources of business – there is an IF there that I will mention in a bit – they are rarely immediate sources of business. They are long-term marketing tactics that require thought and a strategy, not randomly going out to networking events and hoping to bring home business, or calling up long-lost acquaintances and expecting them to toss business our way,” The Detective barely missed a beat before continuing on.

“If you network within your market, and if your goal is to develop relationships that might be leveraged at a later date, you stand a good chance at getting business via networking. If you carefully nurture relationships with people you meet that have connections within your market, keep them appraised of what you are up to, and ‘give before you receive’, you have a good chance at getting business via referrals,” The Detective paused at this point and I could not resist interrupting.

“But sir, what you describe could take forever!”

The Detective paused and gave me a withering look. Usually he welcomed my interruptions, but I seemed to have jumped in too soon on this one.

“No Watson, not forever,” The Detective sighed. “Simply not today in general. One might always by chance come across someone ready to buy, or who will refer you without knowing you or your product well, but in general networking and referral techniques are not ways to jumpstart your business. Unless of course you have spent the past few years building up a network of fans. But in general that is not something you will hear networking and referral gurus discussing.  Unless you have been a lifetime networker, and your network corresponds nicely to your current target market, you will most likely not generate large amounts of business initially through networking and referrals.” The Detective paused again, and I saw from his look, that I was now expected to jump into the conversation.

“Is there any way to accelerate the process?” I asked.

“If you are willing to take a chance and being the first in the relationship to offer help, especially if you don’t know the person well,  the need to reciprocate your good deed might overcome caution. Remember though Watson, when one gives a referral, one is putting their reputation on the line. You are asking a lot of this person, so I would still not rely on an overwhelming response,” The Detective concluded.

“So one shouldn’t abandon the technique, merely incorporate it in with others, realizing you may not reap the harvest for a bit,” I ventured.

“You are turning poet in your old age Watson. Bravo! Shall we return to our work?” The Detective clapped his hands smiling.

“Of course, sir,” I replied, getting the last word in – a most unusual turn of events.


Take Advantage Of A Networking Fail

Smiling friendly business man. Isolated over white.“Sir, may I relate a story for your consideration, because frankly it baffles me,” I said, taking the initiative to start this latest conversation between me and The Effective Detective.

“Of course, Watson, relate away,” he returned, smiling in an actually friendly way, versus the smile I associated with the hammer coming down on a point he was making.

“I attended a meeting of a group, and the purpose of this meeting was actually recruitment for the group. There were a goodly number of visitors, which made it a worthwhile function in terms of meeting new people, but I was a little shocked by one thing,” I paused for a second, and The Detective jumped in.

“I think I know where this is going, but I’ll be cautious,” The Detective’s smile grew bigger, “so please carry on Watson,”

“None of the members or leaders of this group went out of their way to welcome any of the guests, or engage them! They were nice enough if you yourself stepped up and introduced yourself, but many of them seemed more intent on engaging other members than the guests. This struck me as odd, since the whole purpose of the meeting was to recruit new members, wouldn’t it make sense to engage as many of the guests as possible?” I ended with the question, hoping The Detective would again, jump in.

Obliging me, The Detective took a breath and started to answer, “It would make sense Watson, and it would have helped their cause immensely, but unfortunately you are dealing with humans, and this kind of thing happens all too often. Especially when you have a group hosting guests. The members of the group are of course uncomfortable meeting new people, as are most of the guests, but they have an advantage over their guests. They already know a large percentage of the group. The natural social tendency is to associate with those you know. The guests have no choice, they have volunteered to step into a group where they may not know too many people, so they either retreat to a wall somewhere, or they bravely extend their hand and start engaging.”

“But sir, if the purpose is to build membership…” I floundered a bit, not sure I had made my point.

“Yes, yes Watson, you are absolutely correct. However, assuming this is a volunteer organization, no one is going to ‘lose their job’ for not being forward,” The Detective helpfully answered my partial question. “However, it is hard to go against human nature. The guests are outsiders, I’m sure if they join the organization they will be brought into the fold, but at a meeting like you describe, they are on their turf and want to be comfortable.”

“But sir,” I answered, a thought forming, “wouldn’t the people who went out of their comfort zone and introduced themselves to the guests be way ahead of the game? They would be perceived as the leaders in the group. In terms of business they would be the ones starting strong know, like, and trust relationships whether the person they engaged joined or not.”

“Watson, I see our discussions are having a beneficial effect on you. That was a brilliant observation! Keep that in mind next time a group you are a part of has a recruitment meeting,” The Detective exclaimed. “Shall we continue on with other issues?”

“Lets!” I agreed.