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​WEAVING YOUR WEB PART 2: GROWING YOUR REFERRAL NETWORK

In my previous post, we learned that true networking benefits everyone. Just like in an ecological habitat where each plant and animal has its specific role and exchanges energy in various ways, your business has its role amongst many others in your business’ web of life.

Now it’s time to get practical. I’ll show you an easy, fun, and practical step-by-step process (including a conversation template) to weave your web, generating more organic referrals and more of the right kind of business for you and for everyone else.

So if you want to quickly start generating more leads, clients, opportunities, and energy for your business, I recommend you start this project today. 

How it Works: Low-Tech, High-Touch

First, you do NOT have to go to networking events (unless you want to). The strategy outlined here is a one-on-one networking strategy, and requires a phone or Skype and perhaps a coffee shop.

This is a profoundly simple marketing strategy aimed at building a genuine referral network (and seeding other potential collaborations) that I have all my clients do, especially if they are just starting out, adding a new service, or reinventing their business in some way (which is pretty much everyone I work with).

It might sound low-tech, old-school, or way too painfully obvious, but it’s honestly the most effective way to grow your business, especially a local business, and especially in the early stages.

In this sped-up, digital age, we actually forget the power of picking up the phone and having one-on-one conversations, let alone face-to-face meetings.

Note: It’s important that you are clear on your niche before doing this. 

Step One – Make a List 

Make a list of 25-50 people that you could help and that could help you. List the people you already know first, but consider stretching and reaching out to someone you don’t know or ask for an intro.

Try to think of people for whom there is a clear mutual benefit. The most obvious example is someone who also works with the kind of people you do and could refer people they know to you and you to them.

For example, I have made intentional connections with life and career coaches so that if a client comes to me for help who’s not quite ready to start a business, I have people I can send them to help them figure out their next steps. On the flipside, these coaches know that if a client decides in the course of coaching that they want to start a business, they can send that person over to me.

Other mutually beneficial relationships might include people you could co-sponsor an event or program with, package up your work with, co-teach with, mastermind with, market each others programs, or collaborate in some other way that sounds fun to you.

Once you have this list, use your own version of the short script below to guide you in your first calls (it will become more natural the more you do it).

Again, you need to be uber clear on your offering and audience so that the person you’re speaking with can understand where they might fit in.

If you can’t think of people for whom there is a clear mutual business benefit, list them anyways, because you might find out there is a way you can help each other once you talk. If you’re just starting out and don’t know many people in your field, simply start with your friends, former colleagues, and family. The benefit for them is that they get to help you (and trust me, they want to help you… they just need to know exactly what you do and who to send to you!!).

Step Two – The Initial Phone Call Sample Script

Ok, so now you’re ready for some phone calls! Phone calls you say?! OMG, really? Yes. I can’t tell you how special it is to receive a phone call these days instead of an email. But if you must, schedule the call via email and then get on the phone.

Hi So and So,

I’m not sure if you know about my business, but I help X kind of people solve Y kind of problem so they can have Z kind of amazing outcome (state your niche). 

I really admire what you do/am interested in what you do, and I would love to hear more about your business and tell you some more about mine, so that we can help each other. Perhaps we can refer to one another, find a way to collaborate that would benefit us both, or something else we haven’t discovered yet!

Do you have few minutes to chat right now? 

If yes, great! If not, then set up another time. If it’s someone you have a lot of resonance and potential with, take the time for an in-person coffee date.

Then… you get have a meaningful and useful conversation with this person about your work and their work, and how you might help one another…

Step Three – Tips for Meaningful and Useful Networking Conversations:

The basic gist of this conversation is:

“Here’s my role in the community, what’s your role in the community, and how can we help each other?”

Here are some specific tips:

  • Speak clearly about your work… what exactly you do, who you serve, how you do it, and why you do it.
  • Speak from your heart. You authenticity is even more important than the perfect words.
  • Be curious and ask lots of questions about this person’s role in the community, so you can more fully understand how you can help one another.
  • Ask how you can help this person.
  • Give generously and genuinely trusting that people have something to offer you too.
  • Ask if you can add them to your email list
  • At the end, if it’s a potential referral partner, say something like, “I keep a list of people that I trust that I can refer people to. I’m going to add you to that list.” (And then of course, make a list of these people). This encourages them to think about you as a serious referral partner and do the same.

Give yourself a deadline for finishing all of your calls or meetings. I suggest one month or less. Doing it in a condensed period can generate a lot of energy and opportunities for your business in a short amount of time.

Step Four – Very Important Networking Follow-Up Tips

True networking requires repeated connection with the people in your network over time so that you may deepen trust and relationships.

So how do we do this? Follow up! Building a strong network of mutualistically symbiotic relationships must go beyond the first meeting into long-term community building:

  • Thank them. After you have a conversation with someone, follow up with an email thanking them for their time, the deepening connection, and any future referrals to one another (or follow up on any other collaboration next steps that are needed). Clearly write: Here’s a link to my website in case you meet someone who could use my help.
  • Add them to your email list (with their permission). I don’t care if it has six people on it – create an email list (go to Mailchimp and get a free account). Your email list is the simplest way to stay in touch with your growing community, maintain your connections, and remind them that you exist (so they can send clients to you!).
  • Make a note on the list of contacts (hubs) that you made earlier. Hang on to that list you made and make notes about your connection. Refer back to this list regularly and find ways to keep in touch with people.

In the end, the more we can all find ways to support one another, the more successful and impactful we will all be.

So let’s embrace meaningful connection as a foundation of a thriving business.

Here’s to no more icky networking!

And PS, if you want an easy way to meet some new folks for your ecological web, check out the Redwood Circle Women’s Business Community.