Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The Ultimate Guide to Referral Networking: Ch.3

Chapter 3 How to develop close relationships

The art of developing close relationships is key to a successful refer network. Close relationships are sometimes misunderstood, and here is a brief outline of what a close relationship means in refer networking. We will tackle this issue in two stages, the first will describe the roots of relationships and the second stage will present how to build relationships.
There are five types of relationships; romantic, familial, friendly, professional, and commercial. The differences between each type are identified by the type of connection sought between the people in the relationship. While the differences between the five are distinct, there are five underlying factors that all relationships are based on and these are the keys to success in building a meaningful relationship.
The Five Factors
  1. Truth
  2. Integrity
  3. Continuity
  4. Trust
  5. Empathy

All sincere relationships are based on telling the truth. When two people are truthful, then their flow is fluid. In refer, networks telling the truth will only strengthen and expand a person reach. One issue with Truth is hiding information, while in romantic and familial relations hiding information is considered untruthful, in refer networks and business delays it is a mandatory action of information security. A successful relationship will be based on the management of information, but the information being released must be truthful.
Integrity is both personal and professional. It is about how sincere a person is and how knowledgeable and adept they are in their professions. It is about how they act in their client’s interest and how they ensure successful completion of service, on time, every time. Integrity is your name when a client is referred to you; they should know that you provide both professional integrity as well as being a stand-up person. Integrity is something that is delivered by word of mouth, not by you, but by your contacts; it is something that is built up over time and is your “brand” or “image.”
This is your ability to provide continued excellence over time. It involved communications, professionalism, and completion of all contracts. Continuity means that you are constant and adamant in your approach to life and your relationship. It is when you set schedules for time with your contacts, developing relations for the long shot and not the one-time quickie use and throw away. The popular statement “you come to me when you need me” is used because most people do not maintain relations, they build them up and once they are used for reaching a specific target, are discontinued. This is detrimental to a successful refer network, and all relations should be maintained.
Building trust takes time, and it is based on being both truthful and maintaining integrity over time. It is the product of truth, integrity, and continuity. Once you have a trust-based relationship, you can leverage all your needs with this amazing commodity. Yes, trust is a commodity. Banks give billion-dollar loans based on trust. Trust is the strongest of all factors since it is actually a combination of all of them, but is also a factor by itself.
Empathy is when you show feelings as well as react to them. It is when you listen to your contacts heartbeat and not just his/her words. It is about becoming personal, showing interest in their daily issues and feelings. In some cases, offering advice even real assistance. Empathy is how you glue the other four factors together. While business and refer networks are about commercial connections, it does not mean that you should not take an interest in the client’s other issues. By being empathic and showing concern, you are breaking barriers and forging stronger ties.
Making Friends
A relationship can either be an alliance or a friendship. An alliance is when one person offers another an incentive, or when both provide an empathic response to each other. Friendship is when one person helps another without reciprocal incentive. The bond between a friendship is trust based and when broken is never repaired. The bond in an alliance is incentive-based, so long as there is a good incentive, loyalty will remain. Let’s have a look at forging alliances first. Refer networks are alliances, not friendships, they are aimed at creating incentive-based relationships, occasionally a friendship will happen, and that is a bonus, but not the focus.
Forging Alliances
Creating alliance based close relationships is a process where you forge alliances that are mutual to both sides. Uber and Lyft became a powerhouse of ridesharing because they understood the relationship of forging an alliance between a driver, a car, and a customer. Forging alliances is the best way to create a close referral relationship. Here are some everyday examples that go unnoticed but are in fact forged alliances;
Buying from one grocery store even when another might be cheaper because you know the owner. Sometimes the small differences in cost will not mean more than the personal relationship you have with the grocery store owner. However, this is a forged alliance based on an empathic or personal interface, and as such, if the owner/seller is replaced by another, the incentive to continue buying is lost. This is called forging an alliance based on empathy.
On the other tip of the scale are the membership plans that large retail outlets give their customers to retain their loyalty. The moment the incentives are less than the competitions, the customer will either open an account with the competition and leave the first or will balance the load between the two. Customer service is a major issue in incentive-based alliances. This is forging an alliance based on incentive.
Building Close Relations
Now we come to the real issue, how do we forge close relations that are not just incentive based. Relationship building is reciprocal, and it means that you must expect that the other side is either doing the same as you are, or exploiting you for gain, which is OK since you intend to gain too. These are actually six easy steps:
  1. Open Mind; always keep an open mind when dealing with people. There are many different cultures and interests that lay behind a person’s persona. You have to keep an open mind and study up about that person’s culture to understand them. Do not ridicule them or condemn them as a group.
  2. Learning about their culture; This is done in two ways, directly asking the person about their culture and interests, as well as reading up and learning about their national and cultural history. You will be surprised how quick a relationship is built when you know aspects of a person’s heritage that they usually think is not understood or known.
  3. Show interest; Don’t just show knowledge, also discuss interest’s hobbies and personal issues. You don’t have to discuss politics and sex; you can discuss sports, hobbies, art, and food. Food always opens up discussions and opens the way to many other subjects.
  4. Professionalism; This relates to the direct reason for connecting, it is the discussion of professional subjects. It is an interchanging of ideas as well as studying and researching new developments as well as being knowledgeable in the history of the profession. Some relations do not want to open up their personal sides, but they will open up their professional sides, being interested in what interests them professionally will help strengthen the bonds of the relationship.
  5. Courtesy/Respect; It’s all about respect. Showing respect and deference, being patient and smiling even when frustrated. This does not mean that you have to “eat shit,” it means that you have to show respect and be pleasant, but also be direct and stand on your ground. By standing your ground and showing backbone, you also get respect.
  6. Open Communications; this means that you are constant when chatting, discussing or greeting people. All alliances and relationships are based on a continuous dialog. By maintaining an open channel for communications, you are strengthening the bond between each other. One of the worst issues in any relationship is when one side is silent and does not update the other. This is a sign of disrespect and shows that the silent side has other objectives and purposes. If you want to make sure your alliance remains strong, be in constant contact, say good morning every day and don’t be silent.

The Ultimate Guide to Referral Networking: Ch.2

Chapter 2 How to make the first contact

A referral networks purpose is to increase income or popularity through reaching out to others you would not normally have access to. For academics, a referral network might be used to increase the discussion on topics they research and wish to become “fashionably” popular enough to be quoted. The other and main use are for increasing income through building a paying client base. Let us put this premise down as our reason to start a referral network:
A referral network aims to increase my income
We have now established this fact, and this places the whole attitude we have towards referral networking into becoming an effective tool for increasing revenue. We have discussed categorizing our contacts into levels of reliability, integrity, and success rates. In this article, we will look at how we can reach the optimum success rate. Let us define success:
Success is when a client contracts us to work for them
This is in fact only the first stage of success, success has another stage, which is exceeding customer expectations leading to a sympathetic and satisfied client. However, before we go there, we have a few things to do on the way, and the most important one is the First Contact.
So many Hollywood movies have been made about the first contact, and rightly so. For it is the first contact that decides the fate of success.
First Contact is all about preparation and intelligence. In this instance, intelligence refers to having answers to the following questions:
  1. Who is the client?
  2. How is the client related to the referrer?
  3. What does the client need?
  4. What can you give the client?
  5. Speed, Cost, and Quality

1.      Who is the client, refers to the size, scope, and location of the client as well as the person you will be in contact with. If the client is an individual and the only decision maker, then your work will be with them. If the client is a company or is represented by another person, such as a lawyer, you must find out if they can make operative decisions to contract your work. Too many pitches have been made to the wrong person and ended up being a waste of time.
2.      How is the client related to the referrer? This question is of key importance. If there is a direct relationship, such as family or friend, then the approach is personal. If the relationship is through an employee or successful contractor, then the relationship is business. In both events, your approach is businesslike, even if the referrer is the bosses father or wife, you must not make the mistake that you have the contract before you make the pitch. Treat all clients with the same respect and deference. The way you will integrate your first contact will be based on the referrers connection, but it will still be a professional introduction, even if it is held at a wedding or a funeral.
3.      What does the client need? There are two parts to this question; the first is pre-client knowledge. Try to find out everything about the client's needs and ascertain if there is something they need that you can offer. The other part is listening to the client after you have met them and understanding what they want and need through discussion. Lead the discussion to what they need.
4.      What can you give the client? This is a trick question since it is obvious you can give the client what he needs within your professional scope. So, the answer is actually what can you give the client beyond your scope of profession or more than your competition. If you are a carpenter, can you offer metalwork too? If you are a lawyer specializing in tort law, can you also provide court representation in family cases? The ability to provide a wider scope of services can sometimes tip the competition to your favor.
5.      A sub-issue of what you can give a client is the speed/price ratio, which means, how fast are you, and how much do you cost. At the end of the day, most clients want someone accurate, fast and cheap. The magical trinity that eludes many businesses, and finding that elusive ratio will lead to high-quality work being delivered on time and at a price that is competitive.
The First Contact Meeting
Sun Tzu, a Chinese Strategist stated that the war is won before it is even started. Bruce Lee associated his statement that he fights with the style of no fighting. Both are correct, the success of the first meeting is based on preparation. Coming in prepared with all the answers and a fundamental understanding of the client, and their needs and your competition.
Actual or Virtual Meeting
No matter where the first contact will occur, either online or in the real world, remember the three A’s of the First Contact:
  1. Appearance: always dress according to the occasion and be groomed and clean.
  2. Attitude: always smile, be sincere direct and friendly. Show empathy and be perceptive.
  3. Aptitude: be ready to adapt to any situation, know your stuff, and only let an alien invasion or world-ending cataclysm take your focus away from the target.

The First Four Words
Your first four words will always be “Hello, my name is” Everything else will fall into place after stating these five words.
Planned or Chance First Contact
Sometimes meetings will be by chance, if they are, then all of the above will apply for the second meeting, and after you state your four first words, you will listen and direct the conversation to schedule a planned meeting. If it is an online meeting with video then remember to smile, and keep your body still, you don’t want to weave and wave on camera. If it is a real-life meeting, then make a firm handshake, dress for the occasion, sometimes you might meet a new client at a wedding, a shopping mall or even a wake. Always be ready, and always look good, once you start a referral network the days of being “the dude” are over unless you are an artist.

The Ultimate Guide to Referral Networking: Ch.1

Chapter 1: Who are your top referral contacts?

When starting a referral network, you must categorize your referral connections according to their integrity, reliability, and success rate.


Positive: This is how trustworthy your contact is, which means that they will provide a high-quality referral, possibly contacting the new client beforehand, as well as maintaining a close watch until you score a new contract from them. One of the byproducts of Integrity is that it leads to incentive-based services that you should offer your clients for a high success rate.
Detractors are contacts that give you many names, but do not get involved and might not even provide feedback to the client, which means you can only use them as a named reference only.


Positive: This means that your contact is someone you can contact easily, will always find time to chat with you and will always do what they say. Creating a good level of communications is one of the most important issues in any success story. You have to find the balance between frequency and content. Where frequency is how many times you chat, and how quick you both reply as well as how certain you are of the content discussed.
Detractors are when some contacts are erratic, and you might get frustrated when dealing with them, especially after they have linked you and you need more information.

Success Rate

Positive: this is the number of successful results the contact has referred to you, which means it led to a contract. The success rate is under-rated as a factor since many consider the link to be enough, relying on their own ability to catch the new client. This is not a good approach. The competition is out there, and you will need your referrer to help you seal the deal. For example: if you are competing against another referred client, do not rely on your own abilities to score, use every trick in the book to win. This means, use your referrer to help you.
Family: While these are biased, they do provide the best starting platform to work from. Only you can know how each family member will help you, so make sure you filter out the ones you are certain will not help. Keeping them as contacts is one thing, but cluttering up our business referral contact list is another. Do not bring sentimentality into the equation, keep the list concise.

Friends: These are like family but without the familial connection. Sometimes this works out best since the client being referred will know that you are not family, and being a good friend is sometimes the best referral anyone can get. Friends are not just kids you grew up with, they can be retail and professional business owners you enjoy a chat with, or use their services. By keeping a close rapport with everyone you meet, you are turning them into “friends” that can become referrers.
Co-workers: If you already have work experience, then these contacts are highly important. Not all co-workers are competing with you, so make sure you pick the ones you know are happy to help. There is no point in asking someone you worked with to help get clients that would compete directly with their need for clients. Keep them as contacts to discuss professional issues, but not as referral points. One pitfall to look out for is trusting someone not to poach your clients.
Clients: Naturally these are the best referrers, especially if you provided a successful service. However, make sure that your client is ready to be a referrer. You will need to ask them to be pro-active, not act as a name drop, but as an active referrer to other companies that they are working with. The best way to get them to do this is to help them, by suggesting names that you either know or suppose that they have a connection to.
Social Media Contacts: This might take you by surprise, but you can actually create some very good online friendships with total strangers. This is done when you become active in a forum or a group on a social media site that leads to a daily discussion. Some of the social media contacts can become great referrers, all you need to do is reach out with a request.
Professional Associations: Another good place for referrals is if you are active in a professional association. You might think that another professional like yourself would not consider referring you to a new client. However, most professions have specialties, and if you are an expert at one specialty you’re your counterpart is lacking, it could lead to a mutual referral partnership, where you both refer clients to that need the specialty you both provide. The best examples are in the medical and legal field, where physicians have subspecialties and rely on referrals to increase their client base or lawyers that specialize in different areas such as criminal, family or tort laws.
Detractors are when many referrals peter out or lead to long discussions that go nowhere. In other words, you might spend hours chasing a new client with no success only due to a referrers laziness, so this factor is very important.
Building up an initial category will take time and experience. However, there are some basics to creating a start list, and these include the following types:


Building up a top-level referral network takes time, it takes a lot of thought into whom you place in the list. You must also listen to your gut instinct as well. When you start out, it will take time, a lot of trial and error, but do not fall into the trap of building up thousands of contacts of which only twenty are relevant. Categorize your contacts into levels of competence, and you will be halfway to success.