The purpose behind most professional meetings, lunches, networking functions and cocktail parties is to ultimately land more business. People attend these meetings and functions out of a desire to land new clients, increase billable hours or enhance their professional stature, with the ultimate objective of landing even more business.
If the purpose of these meetings is to ultimately gain more business, then why is there so little business being exchanged?
There is no one simple answer to this question. However, there are many leading causes, depending on the individuals involved.
First of all, the people who are really exchanging business already, are not the ones at these events. The real “players” already have deep, committed referral relationships with others. These Referral Rainmakers have long ago learned that by limited their circle of professional referral sources, that they in fact, will do even more business. That’s because they have strong, trusting relationships where they are warmly endorsed and such, they close a much higher percentage of their referrals. They really don’t need to attend these networking functions and events, as they are a very low return on their time.
Here is a list of other reasons:
We don’t ask, or we ask inappropriately or very meekly and are unclear about what we really want or need.
We don’t follow-up and stay in contact, so we are not top-of-mind when an opportunity surfaces.
We don’t have a strong, personal connection with our network, so they are not comfortable warmly endorsing us.
We are satisfied with hot-tips, or cold leads, even though these are a very low ROT.
Our network is wide a shallow, we really don’t know people well enough to refer them.
We are not clear about what a good referral looks like for us, the ideal situations that we want to be referred into.
While we may have a long list of professional contacts, we continue to meet with the same core group that have really become friends, even though we have not had referrals from them convert to any new business in many years. Yet we continue to delude ourselves into thinking we are spending time with “referral sources.”
So what can, and should we do, in order to have much more productive referral relationships with other professionals?
We advocate a tool called the Referral Resume and believe that this is the most productive method available anywhere, to dramatically accelerate the referral building and relationship building process between professionals seeking to build their business through referrals.
To be clear, there is a tremendous amount of psychology and real world experience built into the design of the Referral Resume. At its core, the Referral Resume is specifically-designed to dramatically speed-up the referral building process, including an improvement in conversion rates as well as a reduction in sales cycle time. Here’s how it works, including some of the psychology behind the Referral Resume:
First of all, what we are all looking for are warm, endorsed referrals or introductions where someone is advocating for us. But the reality is that no one is going to passionately endorse someone until they are familiar with their character and their work product because there is tremendous risk to one’s reputation if they referred someone who failed to deliver as promised. Therefore, it is very important that one get to know those whom they are referring.
It can take a long time to get to know someone well enough to understand whether or not they might be a good fit as a referral source. One must develop a strong level of comfort and trust before they are willing to make a warm, endorsed referral. However, with the use of a Referral Resume, we can dramatically-reduce this process.
How does the Referral Resume work? What is it?
A Referral Resume is a written summary, on your own letterhead, that outlines the vital factors in building and sustaining a productive referral relationship. The outline starts with a very brief background on your company or firm. It talks about what makes your firm unique, compelling and different from all others. One uses this section of the resume to present a quick background on their company and services.
Following the brief company background, there are an additional six sections that are designed to educate as well as to prompt a candid discussion about mutual referral building expectations. The Resume outlines the ideal referral opportunities, as well as those that likely won’t work. Clearly, not every opportunity will be an ideal fit, therefore we want to take time, up front, to talk about those cases where we will have the best chance of helping a potential client. Next, there is a section that discusses the concept of a “warm, endorsed referral” versus the typical “lead or hot tip.” If we don’t have someone call on our behalf or make an introduction, then a “tip” is no better than trying to get in cold. That’s why we spend time to educate our referral sources about the need for a warm introduction. Many referral sources find this refreshing and they all instantly understand the value of a warm introduction versus a tip. So we spend time talking about our expectations for warm referrals.
Next, we are prompted by the Referral Resume to have a discussion about “value exchange” and how we can help our referral sources grow their business. In order to maintain long term relationships with our referral sources, there must be mutual exchange of value, and especially during those periods when we don’t have warm referrals.
The reality is that we don’t come across high quality referral opportunities every week, in fact, sometimes it might even be six-months to a year between referrals. However, during those periods where we don’t have referrals, we still want to be trying to help our referral sources in other ways, and the only way we’ll know for sure what they need, is to ask. We need to ask our referral sources what they need to help them grow their business, other than warm endorsed referrals. For example, you might invite them to speak to your organization, you might be able to provide industry information or get them an invitation to speak at an industry conference, etc. But the only way to know for sure, is to ask. Similarly, you may have some ideas that could help you grow your business, and you should discuss those with your referral sources as well.
The only way one will ultimately feel comfortable sending referrals and helping someone else grow their business is if they are comfortable with them and they trust them. This usually happens over a period of months or years. However, we can speed-up this process if we find that we have similar interests, hobbies, experience, values and professional experiences. All these lead to building quick rapport and strong connections. That’s why we feel that it’s essential to share some of your personal interests on your Referral Resume. By talking about your background, hobbies, family, and other interests, you will dramatically-improve the likelihood of making connections that could serve to accelerate bonding, rapport and trust, all the essential elements necessary to provide warm, endorsements and referrals.
Finally, we want to gauge our referral sources’ interest in building and sustaining a productive referral relationship. The best way to gauge this interest is to ask them if they might write a Referral Resume on their own business, using your Resume as an example. This is a great way to gauge one’s interest because if they hesitate or never quite get around to doing it, then you know that they would not likely be committed to the referral building relationship. However, if one jumps at the chance, they appear excited and they are eager to get back together right away with their completed Referral Resume, then you can be quite certain that this is a person who may really be interested in building and sustaining a long-term, mutually-productive referral building relationship.