To build a phenomenal referral marketing system, you need to under- stand networking and how to build rapport quickly.
First, dress well. Did you know that people make 11 important assumptions about you in the first 30 seconds of meeting you? Most of this happens before you even open your mouth! First impressions last, so you want to make it a good one!
My personal view is that this is an area where many small business owners and professionals are failing. We have become so casual in our culture that we aren’t even aware of the impact of dressing professionally. You’ll learn in the leadership chapter that leadership is influence. You influence others in how you dress and groom yourself. Positively or negatively.
My goal is to always be dressed sharp without over-doing it. If you are going to build powerful business relationships, you need to look like a businessperson. Wear a sport coat and a tie if you are a man. Wear a dress or nice pantsuit if you are a woman.
Make sure your clothing is professionally pressed, your shoes are shined and your accessories are appropriate. Your hair should be well groomed, your fingernails clipped and clean; be clean shaven, and keep some breath mints with you at all times! No one likes spending time with someone whose breath could melt butter!
Always have business cards (or brochures) with you. Don’t go anywhere without business cards! Keep a stack in your pocket, a stack in the car, and keep your extra supply wherever you keep your car keys! When you meet people, always get their cards. It is much more important for you to get their cards, because there is no guarantee that they will call you, so be sure to follow up with them.
Be gracious. When you are in a networking environment, you are not there for you! You’re not there to eat and take advantage of the food and drink. You are there to build relationships, so prefer others before yourself. Be polite and kind. Be positive and likeable.
Avoid getting into negative conversations. Sometimes you will run into people at networking groups who want to talk about the weather or com- plain about the food, or whatever. Keeping in mind that you are not there for you, avoid these conversations. They are not productive and they bring everybody down.
Don’t stand in the corner all alone. Instead, identify those who could be good referral sources for you and strike up a conversation. When you begin speaking with them, instead of being anxious to share what you do, show interest in what they do. Find out as much as you can about them and their business. This will come in handy when you get to talk about your business. People love nothing more than to talk about themselves and their business. In fact, a great exercise is to practice asking as many questions as possible without saying anything about yourself until they ask. Once they ask, that means they will listen closer to what you have to say.
Listen emphatically. Instead of half way listening (called “selective” listen- ing), listen closely to what the other person is saying. Use nods and positive affirmations to let them know you are interested in what they are saying.
Even if you aren’t, you should be—at least from the standpoint of how you will build a professional relationship with this person. Try to discover ways you can help them with their business and add value to them.
Remember why you are there! You are there to build your business. To build relationships, to find out how you can help others so they will in turn help you. You are not there for personal reasons. Keep your goals in mind and make the time investment worthwhile.
Immediately put their name and address into a database. Every card you gather, immediately put the information into a database. If you are strapped for time, hire a high school or college student to do data entry for you. Then follow up immediately by sending the new contact a “Nice to Meet You” let- ter or card and an info pack. You should develop an information pack that shows why prospects should use you over someone else.
Mail something to them every month. Depending on your business, you should be mailing or emailing your clients and prospects every month to develop repeat business, referrals, and secure your position as the obvi- ous choice.
Put them on your calendar to call the following week or whenever you told them you would call. Remember, the “fortune is in the follow up.” But also remember that your goal is to make so many contacts that you don’t have to chase individual suspects to survive.