There are those out there that spend over 50% of their time going to networking meeting after networking meeting.
Now, I don’t go to many organized networking meetings these days for various reasons (no need to do networking, not enough time, other priorities) but I don’t dispute the value it CAN bring if utilized correctly. But the key is that when you do networking activities you must have a referral system that goes along with the networking.
When you go to a meeting, dozens to hundreds of people may be in the room, and everyone is trying to “cut through the clutter” in order to find the people who are worth building a relationship with. If you don’t become memorable you’ll easily hurt yourself and you will not get referrals.
Several years ago I was new to the area and was looking to quickly meet the movers and shakers in the business world, so I created my own unique referral system. I attended an end of the year awards ceremony for a local networking organization. I knew that like most people, networkers tend to follow the 5% – 15% – 80% rule. In other words, 5% are getting things done and making money and are connected. 15% are doing pretty well and the last 80% are probably doing okay or struggling.
With the thought that the people winning the awards were probably in the top 5%, I kept track of all of the award recipients and then within a matter of a week and a half was able to connect with over half of the recipients. My strategy was as follows:
The day after the ceremony I sent each award recipient a personalized congratulatory card with gourmet brownies. Each card referenced the type of award they had won. For example, a lady who won the “Boomerang” award received a greeting card with a boomerang on the front and a headline containing her name. The very same day she received the gift she called me excited and wanted to buy something I sold. Just like that.
Special note: When she invited me to her office she took me by a door where she had taped all of the congratulation cards that she had received. Then we sat down at her desk where I saw my card sitting on the edge. Many other people she knew had sent her cards, but the one from me…a person she had not yet met had a special place on her desk because it was specific, personalized, and it came with a small gift in a box. She instantly LOVED me and has since given several referrals. And the best part is that the referral system did not take a lot of time or effort.
Some people have said, “Well, you were in a networking group. Wouldn’t the award winners have sat down with you whether you sent them a card and gift or not?” Probably, but I was able to leave a lasting impression that cut weeks off of the process of relationship building. I moved right to the top of their list of people to sit down with and was able to build rapport with them very quickly.
You can easily replicate this referral system when networking by keeping an eye out for the people who seem to be getting and giving the most referrals. They will tend to be the ones who are getting the awards and recognition at events as they will be well liked. These will be the people who truly get the value of a relationship and are definitely worth knowing. Simply use my card and gift strategy and then follow-up with a call in a couple of days. (Note: When choosing a gift, food is always a good choice as they will think of you the entire time they enjoy your gift.) Odds are they may even call you first! Start getting more referrals today!