For everyone who belongs to a networking group, there is a question that arises sooner or later. You joined a networking group, or even a chamber of commerce, for many reasons, one of which may have been to acquire referrals to grow your business. If you expect referrals from other members of the group, you must be willing to attempt to provide similar referrals to the other members.
Providing referrals has a direct impact on your own reputation based on the results of the referrals. If the referred parties do not get along, do not like each other, or do not trust each other, it may have a negative impact on your reputation in the business community. There may even be a negative impact on you if the two parties to the referral cannot complete a business transaction. The question that members of networking groups face is what to do if someone needs the services that another group member provides and the member knows someone outside the group who is a better choice for the referral.
The person that is a group member may not be the best referral for the other person, or the group member may not be anyone whom you would ever include in a referral. There are members of all of the groups to which we belong who we do not know well, like, or trust. I will not do business with anyone who may be described as such, nor will I refer them to anyone else either. My reputation is just too valuable to me.
Just because someone is a group member with you does not mean that you automatically know them. What if they refuse to meet with you and get to know each other? If you don’t know them, how can you like or trust them? Even knowing them does not mean that you like of trust them; in fact knowing them may be the reason that you don’t either like or trust them.
What about those of us who belong to multiple networking groups or chambers of commerce? To whom do we give preference in referrals? What do you do when anyone needs someone to perform a service or sell them a product and you know multiple people in multiple groups? Can you make the referral based on geographic location, personalities, or even just who comes to mind first? There may be multiple members of the same group who perform the same service; to which one do you pass the referral?
I have written before on what I call “Drive-By Networking”, someone who comes to a group once, or never, but expects all your referrals for their business. I will always prefer to refer others to group members who regularly attend group meetings and who support the group and its other members. Their consistency and support must be rewarded. The “sometimes, hot and cold, networker” just does not deserve my referrals as much as the person who I have come to know, like, and trust on a consistent basis. I need to see how you interrelate with others to place my blind faith in you.
How do you handle this question? Do you refer business to anyone and everyone because they belong to a networking group, or do you screen your referrals just like you would your trusted friends or coworkers? How much do people skills mean when referring business to others? Do you practice Appreciation Marketing towards your business partners and in your networking relationships? Please let me know your thoughts here, or email me at Jim@SOC4Now.com, or call me at 360-314-8691. If you want to get together and discuss these ideas in person, we can do that. I really love to chat about networking as well as marketing. Who knows; maybe the next networking relationship I form may be with you.