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Free Referral Networking Tips

Updated on March 4, 2016
Jeff Watters profile image

Jeff Watters is a business consultant & freelance author who lives in Havre de Grace, MD, former manager of Mattress stores & AWAI member.

How to Network for Referrals

It is not the end-all cure of business marketing but a real foothold of strengthening your brand. You can believe that there are networkers who attend multiple events in a month grasping for new customers.

There are a lot of pitfalls to avoid and some common sense, and standards need to be applied if you are to be successful. Otherwise, the expectable result is that a network marketer will stay so busy meeting new people that they never have time to nurture those relationships. Humanizing relationships are what we want when we network with other people, and it is precisely the right way to get word of mouth advertising for next to nothing invested on your part.


Positive People are an essential part of building your business.

Meeting as many people as you can be an integral part of your business building plan but it cannot be the only plan, and I feel so strongly about this I wrote it into my companies business plan. However, it’s important to remember to develop a rapport with individuals that will deepen into a trusting relationship that will eventually lead to a mutually beneficial and continuing exchange of referrals. You should be happy to refer people to your new friends, and they will reciprocate.

When meeting someone for the first time focus on the relationship, you might form and how you can help each other. Recently attending an event I asked one attendee to accompany me across the street to my client’s shop. I introduced him, and he made a sale right there. Still to this day, I don’t know if that person will reciprocate, but it was the right thing to do because my client needed his product.

Establishing the Relationship

It is hard to suppress your business reflexes in the beginning, but you should not make it your goal to sell your services or promote your company in the initial meeting. You’re there to get to know a new person and nothing else when you first attend a meeting. Sure the situation will arise like the one above. But probably not on your first encounter. So make it your goal to make friends because you don’t need to sell to friends, they buy from you regardless, because they know you, and like you. Apparently this doesn’t mean you’ll never get to sell anything when you meet during referral networking.

You must employ a different approach that most others are not using. This method will make you more efficient because networking isn’t about closing business deals the first time you meet someone, it isn’t about groups of prospective customers; it’s about developing relationships. Sometimes it only takes one person and sometimes that person becomes your biggest business booster. Once you understand and put it into practice, you’ll notice a few things happening to your business. But it won’t happen overnight.

Stand Out From the Crowd

You need to be different. Don't be perceived as a shark circling prey. A good way to avoid doing that is by asking your new acquaintance questions and taking the time to listen to his/her answers. The best questions are the ones that get the conversation going and the person talking about themselves while helping you understand their business model. Great conversations get the ball moving towards your goal of helping each other.

Limit How Many

Restrict the number of contacts at your networking meetings, numbers are not as important as finding people willing to help you or who you can help. The important thing is the quality of the person who will be referring your services to the future and sometimes the type of business they are involved with in their day to day activities. This quality person needs to understand your perception of your company. So it is important what type of contact they are and their relevance to your business and interests. It is also important to distinguish that the connection you’re making depends on whether or not this person is a candidate as a customer or booster to your business. In the 1980’s I participated in a group of people that were all in the construction trades and we shared the names of purchasing agents. Each recommended the other, and all of our businesses grew.

Other people will never be your client, but they may be a great referral source. So try to limit your contacts to about five to six people per meeting. This number may not seem like a lot of contacts, but it’s more than enough when you’re talking about the right kind of business person.

TIP: Outside salespeople know lots of people and make great boosters.

The Multiplication Factor

If you attend two or more events per month, that’s over 24 events a year. Figure you meet four people per month which will translate into 96 boosters or new customers. Some will even refer friends, family and business associates to you too. Since everyone knows about two hundred fifty people, the return can be enormous. The average referral rate is about 2% per year and if you do the math that comes out to about 480 people in a year. Continue to do that over the next couple of years while following up with the people you’ve met and you’ll soon have more than enough high-quality contacts to keep you busy.

Be sure to take business cards and write notes on the backs of people’s cards with relevant information. Notes help you remember what the other person said at an event but also slows you down a bit, so you’re not running around trying to meet the next person. On the front of the card, you can write the date and name of the event where you met the person; on the back, jot down a few quick notes about the conversation or anything else of note. When you contact the person later, this will give you something to refer to when reconnecting with your contact.

Follow the format above and you will easily quadruple your business in a very short time. I know because I teach it to my clients and have watched their businesses grow.

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