Quick question about networking to build a referral pipeline: Which is more important for professional success?
A) What you know
B) Who you know
C) Having a plan
Who you know is useless if you don’t have valuable skills. And no matter how valuable what you know is, that knowledge can't be valued and accessed by others if they aren't aware of you. Likewise, without a plan, the goal of building a referral pipeline is just a dream and professional success will elude you. So, the answer is A), B), and C). Knowing people is essential for building referral partnerships, but without skills and a plan, sales leads and job opportunities will fail to materialize. Building and nurturing relationships is key.
"But what if I don't know anyone? Where do I start to build a network and create a referral pipeline? How do I make a referral pipeline plan?", you may be asking. Start with understanding and acceptance of the differences that make us unique. Introverts and even some extroverts can break into a cold sweat thinking about entering a room full of strangers. Check out Meetup, Eventzilla, Facebook and EventBrite for networking events in your area.
Learn how to create a networking and referral pipeline plan at an upcoming workshop in Austin, TX. Past participants report 40% to 200% increases in sales using the plan and techniques they learned from the workshop.
Next, take a deep breath and be authentic. Feeling overwhelmed by meeting new people and earning their respect and trust in at an event is common. The best approach is to be yourself. Don't try to mimic someone else's personality. Successful networking and relationship building require a few essentials and channeling a different personality isn't one of them.
Sure, some people are naturally gifted in the art of networking and relationship nurturing. Guess what? That's totally ok! We are all different, which is what makes the world an interesting place. Don't beat yourself up if you don't already have relationship building skills honed to a fine point. We can't all be ace at everything. (For example, don't ask me to file your taxes. Orange is definitely not my best color and I doubt it's yours.)
Networking and nurturing relationships are skills that anyone can learn. And you don't need an outgoing personality to succeed in earning referrals. So, what are the 3 steps you can take to build highly strong relationships so you can create your referral pipeline?
1. Ask. Be intensely curious about people. Ask a lot of questions about what they do, what they like to do, what success looks like for them, what their challenges and problems are. Ask what they enjoy most and least about their work. People love to talk about themselves, so this is easier than you might think. Specifically ask them about their goals and concerns. Sample questions: What’s the most important goal you’re working towards right now? What’s your greatest challenge with achieving it? What keeps you up at night? Their answers will give you some insight to what they care about and the problems they are trying to solve. We’ll come back with what to do with the answers in tip 3.
2. Listen. Have you ever tried the experiment of listening more than you speak in a conversation? If you have, did the person you were "talking" with say, "You are a great conversationalist"? If not, try it out sometime. The results can be a fascinating illustration of how much value people place on sharing and feeling heard. It's not a bad thing that we like focusing on our own experiences and telling others about them. It's a human thing. When you're building a network of relationships with people, understanding this quality is invaluable. We are wired to connect and share our thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences with people. And that happens to be awesome for networking and earning referrals.
3. Nurture. Once you've met someone and discovered what they value and established some rapport, the most important step to adding them to your network is to follow-up with them. I cannot emphasize the importance of following-up enough. Have I mentioned how essential the follow-up is? Your happy customers and colleagues want to refer their friends to you. However, they are as busy as you are and need to be reminded to send referrals to you. Top of mind awareness is just as important for referral partners as it is for marketing to prospects.
Anything that is important and needs to repeat, should be automated and that's what a plan is. It's a program that ensures the actions that are important and that we want to repeatedly make as automatic as possible. What is your plan for expanding your network and building a pipeline of referrals? I'd love to hear your ideas.
If you're curious about where you can get a referral pipeline plan, consider attending the workshop in Austin, TX. The "Build a Referral Pipeline Workshop" is interactive, fun and participants leave with a customized referral plan they can start using right away to get more clients this month.