Keeping Your Referral Partners Happy and Loyal

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One of the biggest concerns I hear from accountants and lawyers is their ability to provide enough value to the referral partner relationships they have. This usually occurs when one party has more referrals or business to give than the other party. As I commented in one of my earlier blogs, ‘Building Referral Partnerships’, a referral partner relationship must be a ‘two-way street’ to remain healthy. That said, value isn’t only about providing new client referrals. There are a number of things you can do to bring value to the table for your referral partners.

Here are 10.5 ways you can be effective in keeping your referral partners engaged and loyal to you:

  1. Drive direct business to your best referral partners by sending your clients, colleagues, vendors, friends and family to them.
  2. Make high-level introductions to other referral partners in your network, which can sometimes be more valuable than providing direct business. That’s right, if you can’t refer business to them, find a good referral source for them.
  3. Set them up for a speaking engagement. You’ll help them gain visibility and credibility.
  4. Provide accounting advice (if you’re an accountant)/legal advice (if you’re a lawyer) to help them solve a business or family problem.
  5. Post their information on your website or send it out in your next client mailing. Ask them to guest write an article in your newsletter or quote them in your newsletter as an expert. Find ways to do joint promotions/projects/marketing with them.
  6. Be your referral partners’ ‘go to’ person for anything they need whether it’s a home mortgage broker a social media guru for their business. This is much easier if you’ve been networking for a while and have built up a network of quality contacts.
  7. Invite your referral partners to join you at networking events, board meetings or charity events where you can introduce them around. Buy an extra ticket to a big event with a top-shelf speaker. Sit your referral partner at your table and have him/her meet your clients in a relaxed social setting.
  8. Start your own private networking group and include your top referral partners.
  9. Be awesome at what you do! In some cases your referral partners just want to refer someone who takes care of his/her people. They’re not looking for reciprocity, just excellence.
  10. Nominate your top referral partners for recognition and awards. You’ll help them gain prestige. Write a recommendation of them on LinkedIn. Provide them with a glowing testimonial they can use on their website and in their marketing materials.

10.5. Be social with your best referral partners. Invite them to join you at the ‘game’ with one of your best clients or just meet them at the pub for a drink after work. Buy them lunch and have an in-depth conversation. Remember their birthday. Occasionally stop by their place of work and bring a bottle of premium wine with you to share.

By using one or more of these tactics, you’ll keep your best referral partners happy and loyal to you. Sometimes we have to be creative to ensure we’re being valuable to the relationships we value most. Without doing for others on a regular basis, we open ourselves up for disappointment when one of our partners changes teams.

When you stop being valuable, you’re no longer valuable. Ouch!

I hope you found this helpful. If you’d like to dig into a bit more detail just drop me an email and I’d be happy to discuss over a coffee or the phone.

Author: Ron Gibson Alliance Advisor with ATL Network
www.atlnetwork.com.au

Turning Relationships into Referrals

Coffee meetingI had a most enjoyable lunch with two lawyers yesterday. Here’s the second of two follow-up emails I sent them the next day (I have changed the names to protect the identity of those I’m writing to and about):

Hi John and Stuart.

Again, thank you for lunch yesterday. It was great catching up.

Here’s some follow up/additional info on things we discussed. (By the way, I think this is something everyone at your firm should take a look at.)

  1. Per our conversation, building relationships with referral sources is not a “one and done”. Let’s be clear on this: if you take someone to lunch/meet them for coffee one time and have a nice conversation followed up by a thank you note, you might get a referral. But you’re not likely to get a stream of referrals over time. You’re not likely to be remembered for the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years. You’re not building the connection, the friendship, the relationship.

The first meeting is just the first meeting. It’s essential that the first meeting leads to a second meeting, and to a third meeting, and a fourth, and a fifth, and so on for the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years. In other words, your first meeting is the beginning of a long relationship. You’re looking to stay connected to your referral source FOREVER. That way the referrals will keep coming year in, year out, FOREVER. And so to FOREVER that happen, it’s important to create and stick to a ‘rigid follow-up and stay-in-touch system’ so you don’t drift away from your contact.

I recommend a 90-day cycle that repeats over and over again. Here’s a plan that works (feel free to tweak it to suit your specific situation):

Day 1: Buy your contact lunch or coffee.

Day 2: Send a follow-up note.

Day 30: Send a note on something pertinent. Look for something helpful, interesting or relevant you can forward to your contact. Ideally, you identified an issue where you can be of assistance and you’ll communicate on that topic. See my email to Mike in point 3 below which talks about looking for opportunities to pay it forward.

Day 60: Send another note similar to the previous one. Go ahead and propose some dates for another get-together around day 90.

Day 75: If you don’t yet have a lunch or coffee planned, then go ahead and schedule something now. Place a call if necessary and get the next lunch/coffee in your diary.

Day 90: Buy your contact lunch or coffee.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Eventually, your relationships will become less structured and more casual, but until that happens stick to a 90 day cycle like the one I have described here.

This is the way to grow and maintain your relationship/s. You want to stay in touch and you want to stay top-of-mind. Ideally, you’re having additional interactions with your contacts. Maybe you’re running into them at networking and industry events, out at restaurants and coffee shops or in other places. Maybe you’re working on something that came up at the first meeting. Maybe you play a regular round of golf together. Maybe you plan dinner with your spouses. Along the way, your contact is getting your monthly newsletter, you’re inviting them to your seminars and parties and you send them a birthday card. — All of this kind of activity will place you prominently on your contacts radar screen. Hopefully, you’re able to send thank-you notes for your referrals. Hopefully, you’re finding ways to make your relationship mutually beneficial. In my email to Daniel in point 2 below, I talk about the many ways you can keep the ledger balanced with your referral source.

The first meeting just ended. The rest of your networking relationship/friendship is ahead of you. Use the system above to build and grow and nurture and take care of your relationships with referral sources. Be patient and let things evolve and the referrals will come — then you’ll be having many more good revenue days.

  1. I mentioned Daniel (name substituted to protect the innocent) the accountant who asked “how do I manage my business relationships with two law firms. Here’s the email I sent him in response to his question:

Hi Daniel.

Thanks for your email asking “how is the best way to manage business relationships with a couple of law firms?” And you went on to say “opportunities to refer to a lawyer don’t come through weekly”.

Here’s my response first to your question and second to your comment about a lack of opportunities to refer………

First up, let me say you’re not Robinson Crusoe with this referrals “thing”. I ‘m frequently asked, “How can I maintain lots of relationships with lawyers/accountants/financial planners/finance brokers, etc. when I can only refer to a few or just one or two?” “How can I ask them for referrals when I can’t refer to them?

Daniel, every professional who is actively building up their referral source network faces this same challenge—-like you, they don’t have enough referrals to hand out to everyone. When you’re trying cultivate multiple referral sources, you can’t possibly reciprocate with a referral every time. Nor can you proactively feed all your referral sources with a regular flow of referrals—-and it’s especially challenging when your referral sources are in the same profession as each other.

Ultimately, networking relationships are reciprocal. There’s a quid pro quo. You give to me and I give to you. If these relationships aren’t win-win, if they aren’t a two-way street, if they aren’t mutually beneficial they WILL sour and end.

So the question is, “what can you give?” or “what can you give back?” when you can’t give referrals so that you can fulfill the need to make your referral source relationships reciprocal?

Answer: Plenty! There are many ways you can pay referral sources back for making a referral You don’t always need to respond to a referral with a referral. And you don’t necessarily have to give referrals to a potential referral source in order to turn them into an active one.

My article (accompanying this email) entitled “Inexpensive, Creative Ways To Build Business Relationships” provides a toolbox of ideas for not only keeping the ledger balanced in your networking relationships, but also proactively nurturing those relationships to generate more referrals for your firm.

In a nutshell, you need to actively manage your referral sources by staying in regular personal touch to see what they’re up to and what’s the latest with them. Personal phone calls, personal emails, personal text messages and the occasional  breakfast, lunch or drink after work with them are the ways to do this. It’s vital that you continually show that you’re interested in THEM and show that you care about THEM by maintaining regular personal contact.

And you need to look for opportunities to give value (or pay it forward), without expecting anything back in return.

* You introduce him/her to someone who can refer to him/her. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

* You invite him/her to your parties That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

* You donate to the charity s/he cares about. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

* You answer questions for him/her about an area you are an expert in. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

* You help his/her spouse/partner/kid by writing a letter of recommendation/introduction. That’s value That’s paying it forward.

* You give him/her ways/ideas to profit more, produce more, sell more in their business. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

* You teach him/her a few marketing ideas or help them do a better job with their current marketing efforts. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

* You remember his/her birthday and send a card. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

* You set him/her up for a speaking engagement. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

You may not be in a position to send him/her business, but can nurture the relationship with something else of value.

* You go to the funeral when his/her mother passes. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

* You visit him/her in hospital> That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

* You ask him/her to give you a tour of their place of work so you can better understand their business That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

* You send him/her back comments about a piece in their newsletter. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

You’ve got to do something if you want to be remembered.

* You invite him/her to a networking event with you where s/he might enjoy meeting desirable prospects and referral sources. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

* I repeat, you buy him/her breakfast or lunch. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

* You refer him/her to reliable service providers and vendors (e.g., copywriters, printers, internet experts, business consultants, etc.) That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

* You offer to provide a free service to their clients. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

There’s no reason to limit your relationship to trading business. Saying “I hope to send you something” means nothing. If you can’t send business the other way, try something else.

* You add him/her to your referral list on your website. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

* You see if any of your LinkedIn connections could be of value to him/her and make the connection for them. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

* You write a recommendation of him/her on LinkedIn. (That’s incredibly powerful and no it’s not the same as an Endorsement).That’s value. That’s paying it forward. (That’s incredibly powerful and no it’s not the same as an Endorsement).

* You nominate him/her for recognition and awards. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

If you want to turn your relationships into referrals you’ve got to keep reminding your contacts that you exist—and not with a sales pitch or a brochure featuring your products or services, but with VALUE.

* You connect with him/her on LinkedIn. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

* You “like”, “share” and “comment” on his/her LinkedIn updates. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

* You use his/her hashtag and handle (example:@gonetworking). That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

* You comment on and share his/her blog posts. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.

As you can see, there are so many ways of giving and giving back to your referral sources as you build and maintain your relationships with them. Again, I invite you to read my article attached, “Inexpensive, Creative Ways To Build Business Relationships”  where you will find a whole host of other approaches to making your networking relationships mutually beneficial.

More food for thought……………..

* Be up front and honest in your networking relationships. If don’t think you can send business to your networking associates, explain to them why.. Then ask them what else they want and help them get it.

* Maybe you CAN refer business their way. You just need help in recognising or uncovering the right opportunities. Ask your referral sources questions like, “What are some typical indicators that show there might be a need for your services?” “What are a few questions I could ask my clients to confirm whether there really is a need if I uncover one of those indicators?” “How can I recognise a good business opportunity for you?”

* When opportunities to refer to a lawyer, financial planner or other service provider come up, always give at least two names. Your clients are entitled to choose people they work with and they might not share your opinion about who would be good for them. You also cover your assets a bit by giving two or more names ― if your client ends up disliking the person s/he chooses s/he knows s/he had other options. There’s another reason why I like to give my clients two or three options — no one can say that I’m benefiting (financially or otherwise) by referring only to the one person or firm. It’s a credibility thing for me ― and for you too, I might suggest.

* Let the client make the contact, but give a heads-up if you can. Your client, not you should decide whether to contact someone about this matter. That said, I always ask the client if s/he wants me to call the person I’m referring him/her to, to let them know my client might be calling, while assuring my client I won’t be discussing his/her matter with people whose names I’ve given. Giving your referral source/s a heads-up does two things―it lets them know that you’re thinking of them, even if your client doesn’t call, and it can ease your client’s concern about calling someone s/he doesn’t know.

Some further reading…………….Check out my article attached, “Building Referral Partnerships”. It’s full of real-world advice and approaches on how to build, grow and manage referral source relationships.

Daniel, I hope this helps.

Speak soon.

  1. I also mentioned another accountant in Mike who wanted to know how to ‘ace’ his first up coffee meeting with an insurance broker and potential referral source in Jonathan (again, I have changed the names) Here’s the email I sent to Mike:

Hi Mike.

Yesterday I was thinking about the meeting (hopefully the first of many, many more over the coming years) you’re going to have with Jonathan. I want to share a few things with you that will ensure this first meeting is a good one — both for you and Jonathan.

  1. Before the meeting, do some research on Jonathan. Look him up on LinkedIn—see if you have things in common and if you share common LinkedIn connections. Review his company website and make a note of a couple of things you’d like to learn about the business.
  2. Spend your time together asking questions. Try not to talk too much. The more Jonathan talks, the more he will like you. That’s just human nature at work. Keep him talking by being interested and leaning about his world. If you find yourself talking too much, wrap it up with a good question and get back to listening. Think of this is meeting as the first of dozens of more meetings during the life of what could become a 5, 10 or 20 year relationship. Certainly, you’re in a hurry to build your clientele — you want more business — I know that. Realistically, however, this is a long-term project and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to talk about your needs and objectives IF you hit it off with Jonathan and take the relationship to the next level. Give trust time to blossom. This is not the time to sell or ask for business. This is the time to connect.The referrals will come. I promise.

2.5. If you want to be good at networking, building relationships, business development and getting referrals, be good at listening. Think about it: who do you like more, the guy who talked the whole time or the guy who asked you good questions and was interested in your answers.

  1. Come to this meeting well prepared to ask Jonathan about his interests at work and outside the office:

* What gets him excited about what he does?

* What drives him crazy?

* How did he first get interested in the work he does?

* What services/products does his company provide?

* What are his typical client problems?

* Who are his favorite types of clients?

* What makes the ideal referral for his business?

* Who are his best referrals sources?

* What are the key frustrations in his business?

Mike, it’s likely that Jonathan is going to want to know these things about you too so be prepared with your answers — but keep them short and get back to listening with a good question.

4 Some things you should be listening for:

* What is the spouse’s name? Figure out how long they’ve been married.

* What are the names and ages of the kids?

* What’s the work history?

* Where did he grow up?

* What did his parents do? Are they living?

* What are his interests outside his work?

* What are the big issues in his life?

* What are his worries, concerns and anxieties?

* What are his goals, objectives and needs?

Mike, you need to capture these things and write them down. You’re going to have many, many more meetings with Jonathan. You don’t want to repeat the first meeting over and over again at every meeting for the next 20 years. I always take notes when I’m in these types of meetings and so should you.

  1. As the conversation progresses, you need to look for opportunities to pay it forward, look for opportunities to help. The surest, fastest way to build any relationship is to help the person. Revisit my article “Inexpensive, Creative Ways Tom Build Business Relationships”and you’ll be reminded of 50 plus ways you can pay it forward and help your contacts.
  2. Remember, this first meeting is just the first meeting. It is essential that the first meeting leads to a second and to a third, a fourth, a fifth and so on. Eventually, your relationship will start to blossom with Jonathan referring business your way. Remember, this is a long-term project — and if you handle it right the payoff in terms of new clients for your practice will be BIG.

6.5. If this meeting takes place at your office, plan the next one at Jonathan’s office. Don’t forget to bring the muffins.

Good luck with Jonathan. I’ll be in touch.

John/Stuart, I hope this helps.

Author: Ron Gibson, Alliance Advisor with ATL Network

Employee engagement isn’t an issue in hard times…or is it?

Engagement

Tough times call for tough measures, and employee engagement and well-being may be considered ‘soft’ topics.  However, if you have been forced to reduce staffing to minimum levels, service delivery may be severely impacted if you lose anyone else.  In ‘tough times’, productivity and profits are crucial, and the emotional buy-in and commitment by your employees, to your business objectives, becomes even more of a priority.

It is no surprise that employees who experience a sense of belonging, purpose and integration within their workplace, are more likely to be motivated and produce quality work for your business.

Research has proven that highly engaged employees are less likely to be affected by change and, in times of uncertainty, engagement can serve as an anchor.

http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/125036/despite-downturn-employees-remain-engaged.aspx

So how do I engage employees …with no spare cash?

Effectively engaging your employee does not have to cost you a cent:

  1. Demonstrate and Encourage Sound Leadership

Nothing matters more than good leadership.  We develop connections with people and our managers/supervisors are an important part of the equation.  Consider who you have leading your teams – do they… Inspire? Communicate the vision? Provide effective feedback? Lead by example? If you answered No to some of these questions it might be time to develop who you have at the helm.

  1. Deliver Recognition and Feedback

Recognition does not have to be in the form of monetary rewards.  Your employees are well aware of the market downturn, with the majority grateful for their job and not expecting the bonuses or salary increases they may have received in the past.  However, you can demonstrate you value your employees by being generous with your praise for quality work or noticing additional hours worked.  Look out for employees who go the extra mile and provide recognition and feedback where it is due.

  1. Provide Interesting Work

In today’s market, training and development budgets are almost non-existent. Develop your employees by challenging them with new work and responsibilities outside of their current role?  If you have made some roles redundant, offer remaining staff the opportunity to be trained to learn and take on some of these duties?  Presented in a positive way, this can be extremely empowering for an employee, validating trust and their position in the business as well as enabling you to observe their capability, and future potential.

Author: Warner Consulting Australia Pty Ltd, Alliance Advisor with ATL Network

Getting Back In Touch With Old Contacts


It happens to all of us. There’s a former client, former customer, ex-colleague, ex networking associate you’ve lost touch with and you’d like to re-kindle the relationship, but you’re having trouble trying to figure out what to say after all this time. Don’t email. Call them up and say something like this:

“Hi (whatever their name is). It’s (your name) here. I was just thinking about you and I thought I’d pick up the phone and call. I don’t actually need anything. Just touching base to say hello and see how you’re going. Got a minute to talk?”

Well, that’s how I handle this kind of situation eight times out of ten. And the experience is typically an enjoyable one―both for me and for them. They’re happy to hear from me. We chat for a while. We laugh. We update each other on what’s going on in our worlds. We’re back in touch. And often we’ll arrange to meet up for coffee or a bite to eat. Sometimes it’s a drink after work. I’m always glad I made the call.

My attitude is if the relationship was once strong and you’ve just dropped the ball, then reach out to re-connect.

Like I say, mostly I just pick up the phone and call the person, but not always as you’ll see. Read on.

BIG QUESTION: How much business are you missing out on by dropping out of touch with people?

Ex clients, ex colleagues, people you went to school or university with, played sport with or just hung out with socially can be your very best source of new business. They already know you, like you and trust you at least to some degree.

But…I will admit it can feel a bit uncomfortable getting back in touch after months/years have passed. Will you look needy? Will it look like you’re after something or trying to sell something?

So we end up not re-establishing those relationships. We miss out and so do they.

If picking up the phone and calling them doesn’t sit comfortable for you, one of the best ways to re-connect with old contacts―and at the same time overcome any psychological roadblock you might have in re-connecting― is to get back in touch via email and in a way that provides value to the other person.

Here’s the deal.

When you are providing something of value to them; when you’re being of service to them; when you’re being helpful you feel a lot more comfortable reaching out to re-connect. They appreciate you making contact and you have a greater desire to do it.

Here are a couple of surefire approaches (techniques I like to use myself) that allow you to comfortably re-establish contact and be a valuable resource at the same time. You’ll reconnect and feel good about it. And so will they.

These approaches for getting back in touch work like a charm because they are about giving value and being valuable and not asking for anything.

That’s the secret to successfully reconnecting with old contacts; reconnect by giving value, by being valuable, by being resourceful, by being helpful―and, I repeat, don’t ask for anything.

So the first way of being valuable when you get back in touch with someone is to invite them to an event or something you’re going to that you think they will find valuable too.

The best way of doing this is whenever you get invited to something yourself, say a networking event, a seminar or any kind of thing that you might find useful, think about WHO in your network or who in your data base you could invite to that as well.

Inviting an ex client, ex colleague or someone who has referred business to you in the past to come along with you is an excellent way to re-establish a relationship. It works really well for three of reasons.

First, they don’t even have to come along to the event to appreciate you thinking to invite them and you’re still back in touch. The invitation itself puts you back in touch. They might turn you down, but they will appreciate getting your invitation. And then you can go back and ask them what they’re doing now, how things are going for them, how’s business, etc. and perhaps even suggest catching up for a coffee or bite to eat to keep the conversation going.

The second good thing that happens is if they do come along to the event with you then both of you are out of the office, away from the pressures and distractions of the workplace. It’s a relaxed social environment. You can sit down together and chat over coffee or something to eat. Or you can stand around chatting at a networking event while you enjoy having a drink together. You get a nice chunk of social time together to rekindle the relationship. You get the idea.

The third good thing that happens is when they come along to an event with you they also get to meet other people―people who might be desirable contacts or prospects for THEIR business. You’re being valuable to them because you’re helping them increase who they know. They’ll be appreciative of you for that.

The second way of getting back in touch with old contacts and being valuable to them at the same time is to organise your own event. This gives you the opportunity to re-establish multiple relationships, all in one hit.

I’m not suggesting you put on some kind of mega conference or host a lavish cocktail party or anything grandiose like that. What I mean is inviting six or more of your old contacts―ex clients, ex colleagues, people who used to know each other―for drinks after work or a pay-for-your-own breakfast, lunch or dinner. It could even be as much as you inviting them over to your place for a barbecue. Either way, you’re getting everyone together. You’re back in touch. And, in the process, you’re creating value for everyone, including yourself. Not only are you re-connecting with each of them, but they’re also connecting and re-connecting with each other. It’s value for EVERYONE.

In addition to this, as the host/organiser you have the opportunity to interact with everyone before the event when you’re doing the inviting and at the event as you welcome people, make introductions and move from one conversation to the next. And there’s a bonus. You’re always a topic of conversation because you’re the host.

Then after the event, as you follow up with everyone to see if they enjoyed themselves you get another piece of time with them. Based on how the conversation goes, maybe then you suggest grabbing a coffee or something like that and enhance the relationship by having a more in-depth face to face conversation.

Here’s what I’ve being doing for years.….
I organise what I call a ‘drinks soiree’ every three or four months as way of re-connecting (and staying in touch) with people who are important to me, with no thought of what I might get back in return. Through a mix of text, email and phone I extend a personal invitation and I let everyone know that they’re buying their own drinks.

There’s always a good crowd. I greet people as they walk in the door. I make lots of introductions. I make sure I get to talk (albeit briefly) to all my guests before they leave.

I’m a topic of conversation because I’m the host. That’s a bonus!

After the event, I follow up (usually by phone) with a number of my guests. They’re always happy to talk. It gives us a more time to chat. I look to nurture the relationship by offering to introduce them to people they didn’t get to meet at the event. And, with a subset of them, I will arrange coffee to continue the conversation. It’s an effective way for me to keep some of my relationships ‘alive’. It’s all good fun and very good for business.

QUESTION: Who are six or more people that you would like to re-connect with? Think of people who can help you achieve your business goals.

ACTION: Don’t hesitate. Set the date for your event and get on with inviting your guests. You won’t regret it.
By the way, are you on LinkedIn?

If you’re anything like most people who are, you’ve probably collected a whole swag of contacts that you haven’t communicated with in ages―people you’ve worked with, done business with, had meetings with, discussed opportunities with―all kinds of people that you’ve fallen out of touch with. You haven’t been thinking about them and they haven’t been thinking about you.

BIG QUESTION: How much direct business and referral business are you missing out on―business that your rivals are getting instead―from all those LinkedIn contacts that have forgotten about you?

Try this valuable exercise….

Find three of your LinkedIn contacts that you’d like to re-establish a relationship with. Send them a note. Ask how things are going for them, what they’re doing now and how’s business. That kind of thing. Let them know that you don’t actually need anything, but you’re just checking in to see how they are doing.

How good would that make you feel if someone you haven’t spoken to in a while just dropped you a note that said they were thinking of you and wanted to say hello? That would make me feel pretty good. Spread a little goodwill today and reach out to some of your old contacts. And while you’re at it, tack on a few lines about what’s new with you, but don’t ask for anything. And no selling!

Odds are, people will be pleased to hear from you and they’ll come back to you. Some of them in a flash. So you’ve swapped notes. You’ve re-connected. Maybe you then suggest a phone call or grabbing a coffee if they’re nearby or something like that and enhance the relationship by making it more personal. That can lead to anything. Maybe something big.

QUESTION: What’s the point of making all those connections on LinkedIn in the first place if you never interact with them?

ACTION: Send three notes today and keep sending three notes each week until you have reached out to all those LinkedIn contacts you want re-connect with.

What about all those old business cards sitting on your desk or in a draw of people you met at networking events and other situations, but didn’t follow up with? Some of these cards are leads you’ve generated, but aren’t likely to result in anything meaningful because you’ve let them go cold.

ACTION: Go through those cards and pull out the ones you think are potential opportunities. Of those that you’re not connected to on LinkedIn, send them an invitation to connect.

MAJOR IMPORTANCE: Don’t do the generic thing that says, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”. Instead, say something personal like, “Hi (whatever their name is). Just trying to re-establish connection with friends and colleagues who I’ve lost touch with. Would you like to connect here on LinkedIn so we can stay on top of what’s going on with each other?” That’s all you need to say at this point. The invitation itself puts you back in touch.

Chances are, most people will recognise your name and ‘accept’. Now you’re trading messages. You’re back in touch. The door’s open to start a conversation. Maybe you could invite them to an event you’re going to…..or your own event. Maybe (based on what you’ve gleaned from their LinkedIn Profile or their website) send them a link to a podcast, video or article they might find useful. Maybe suggest grabbing a coffee together. But it’s not the time to ask for anything or sell anything. Your goal is to re-new the connection.

Already connected to some of these people on LinkedIn? You know what to do. See earlier in this article.

Stuck for words when you re-connect? The following might help……….
● I thought it was time I gave you a call.
● I’ve be meaning to call you.
● Just wondering what you’re up to.
● Long time, no talk,. What’s new?
● It’s been so long since I last saw you. How are you?
● Amazing how time has gone by.
● Where does time go?
● Just touching base to say hello and see if you’re ok.
● I saw something today that made me think of you.
● I had cause to think of you this morning when……
● I was thinking of you today because……
● Your name crossed my mind/came up in my head when I was……
● It’s been way too long. Let’s catch up. My shout!
● We connected on LinkedIn six months ago. I see from your profile that you……
● I noticed your LinkedIn profile and……..
● If you’re looking to reach out simply for the sake of not being forgotten, LinkedIn is a great option. If you’re not already in each other’s networks, send a brief personal message and ask to connect. Already connected? Endorse your contact for skills you know s/he has.
● Just a quick update.
● Good to see you lighting up the social pages in (name of publication) when you noticed their photo.
● When I saw this I immediately thought of you.
● I thought you would find this interesting.
● I just wanted to touch base to see if you’d like to meet for coffee and swap updates on what’s been going on in our worlds. Let me know if you’re keen.
● I have so missed seeing you.
● I see you’re working in Sydney now, which explains why you’re not at the Local Chambers meetings I used to see you at. I hope everything is going nicely for you.

Reaching out to old contacts can be hugely beneficial and it’s not something that needs to be painful. Use the tips above to reach out and odds are your old contacts will be pleased to hear from you.
I hope you find these ideas for re-connecting useful.

That’s it for now.

Until next time.

PS. NOTE WELL: When you re-connect with old connects, try not to let them go cold again. You need to keep in touch. The secret to that is to prioritise and systemise. And that’s a topic for another time.

Author: Ron Gibson, Alliance Advisor with ATL Network

Ron runs a Web-based Business Growth Masterclass for Professional Advisors. Next Program is scheduled 6th July. More information: CLICK HERE

Why networking doesn’t work for a lot of people — and the solution for it.

Networking.png

For many business people and professionals, networking is their primary source of business, while many others frequently claim to put a lot of effort into networking without seeing much return. What’s going on here? Why does networking work for some people, but not for others? What about you?

Networking, according to those who are successful at doing it — meaning they actually can attribute significant new business from the activity of networking — is NOT about finding people who may be good prospects for your products and services. It’s NOT about looking for potential new clients and customers for your firm. It’s NOT!

 Successful networking is about finding and developing ongoing relationships with “advocates” — people who will refer you, recommend you and introduce you to potential buyers of your products and services. It’s “who you know who knows who you want to meet”.
Good networkers do not view the attendees they meet at an event as their prospects. That is unless an attendee says, “I should probably hire you!”
 
Remember, those attendees are at the event to grow their own business.
If anything, attendees  at networking events, conferences, cocktail parties, etc. are potential referral sources. They know hundreds perhaps even thousands
 of other people and may potentially connect you to your next prospect
and maybe even many more prospects after that.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you won’t ever find a new client or customer while you’re out there doing a bit of networking. In some cases, you will. I’m just saying it won’t happen as often as you would like. Nor am I saying that your networking associates won’t ever buy from you. Some will, but not not nearly enough of them.
The reality is the lion’s share of your future new business will NOTcome directly from the people you meet in a networking environment. It will come indirectly as a result of those people talking about how great you are to the people THEY know. This word-of-mouth advertising advertising leads to a referral — your best, most profitable source of new business.
 
So here’s the rub. If networking is not working for you it means you don’t have enough advocates out there dropping your name and bragging about youand your business totheir friends and associates.
YOU NEED MORE ADVOCATES!
Foranyone that claims to put a lot of effort into networking without seeing much return, there’s a paradigm shift that needs to take place if they’re going to get the results they’d like to get. That shift is to move from looking for “prospects” to looking for “advocates”. Meaning, if you’re focusing solely on finding your next client or customer, you’ll miss out on making a lot of valuable connections who can refer business your way.
If you have no interest in establishing relationships, and you just want to sell to the people you meet, you are missing the opportunity to discover whether or not they might be useful advocates for you and your business. It’s your loss!
To make networking work for you, think beyond this person as a client/customer for me or can this person hire me when you meet people. The person you’re talking to may not need your services but someone or several some-ones in their network may. The idea is to develop a trusting relationship with the people you meet by following up and staying in touch with them. Over time you want to ensure that they know what your products/services/solutions are, what problems they solve for what type of people and the typical results you tend to achieve for your clients. If you get the relationship right — it takes time; one cup of coffee is never enough — and you have a good enough message about your offerings (i.e. it’s easily understood), they will happily refer you and recommend you to the people they know. And if they see your product or service as a solution to their problem or the means to achieving their goal, they’ll happily buy from you too.
Remember it’s “who you know who knows who you want to meet”.
 
Think of every person you meet as someone who could refer
business your way or help you gain valuable information.
 
Build relationships with people so that they will refer
others in their networks who need your services.
 
 
DON’T MAKE THIS BIG NETWORKING MISTAKE………….
 
It’s easy to dismiss people after talking to them for 60 seconds if they don’t fit the profile of our perfect client or customer. It’s easy to think, “I should cut this conversation short and move on. This person doesn’t need what I sell.” It’s easy to forget that this person knows a lot of other people. For example, their best friend maybe the owner of a business that is an ideal prospect for your services. Instead of eliminating this person, you can build a friendly rapport with them and have a warm referral (or even hot personal introduction) to a great prospect.
AND REMEMBER THIS………….
 
One of the biggest turnoffs at networking events is people that are solely there to build their own businesses. Don’t get me wrong ― that’s a reason we’re all there! I’m talking about the person who is keen to talk about what they do and explore how you can help them but they never ask about what you do and how they may reciprocate. The most successful networking conversations are win-win, give-and-take encounters. By focusing on how you can help others, people will be drawn to you and want to help you back. It’s human nature.
Those who are successful at networking don’t
build relationships to “get”, they build them to ‘give”.
 
So think referrals, think introductions, think word-of-mouth recommendations. Think about who can make those happen for you. In other words, focus on finding and meeting potential advocates — and if you find a good prospect for your firm, that’s a bonus!
 
An advocate may be the CEO of your local chamber of commerce. S/he may be in the marketing, finance or human resources department. They might be another business owner or professional. They might be responsible for sales or business development in a non-competing company. They might be a supplier to your business. They may sit on a committee at your surf club or head up a not-for-profit. Typically, they are well-connected and well-regarded.
Advocates may not buy your product or service today, or ever, but in time they may put you in touch with numerous others who could.
One advocate can bring you 5, 10 or more clients while if you pursue one potential prospect you will often end up frustrated and with zero new sales. Successful networking requires a shift in focus from trying to meet prospects to trying to find and meet advocates.
Approaching networking in this way takes the pressure off you to “sell” and means the other person feels no pressure to “buy”. You won’t be “elevator pitching” your products and services to everyone you come into contact with, trying to make a sale. You won’t be spraying your business cards around like confetti. And you won’t be turning people off. Instead, you’ll be better received, you’ll make better connections and, ultimately, you’ll have much more success in winning new business.
If you just go looking for clients and customers, there is always that
tension that you are sizing people up and down, trying to
figure out if it is worth investing time in someone.
 
I have said it repeatedly; networking is all about building relationships. I’m not trying to directly sell my services to “potential clients”; I look at networking as attempting to build relationships with people who could refer me business. I don’t have to sell directly to people I meet because if they need my services, they’ll find find me; they’ll let me know.
Take the stress out of your conversations altogether. Rather than
looking to turn your contacts into clients, look to
turn THEIR relationships into clients.
 
The real power of networking is in
who THEY know: there are many more opportunities there.
Remember, it’s “who you know who knows who you want to meet”.
So who are your potential advocates? Think about the businesses, the people who are in regular touch with your ideal clients or customers. How will you find them and when you do find them how will you approach them and what will you say to connect with them? Then how will you go about building a relationship right with them and ensuring they understand the value you bring to the table so they will want to refer you and recommend you? It takes some work and patience, but it pays off BIG TIME!
Ron Gibson, Associate Advisor with ATL Network.
Ron can be contacted on 0413 420 538 or gonetworking@iinet.net.au