Business networking

Networking strategies: Using word of mouth

- February 21, 2009 3 MIN READ

Anyone who has been in business for any length of time knows how much easier it is to build rapport with a prospect who has been referred to you by one of your contacts, than it is to approach and close a cold prospect.

A word of mouth or referral based approach to sales is very powerful, but pursuing it does not come naturally for most. In fact, in the business world we are not taught to think this way at all. Why is this?

From an early age we’re taught not to brag or ‘blow our own horn’. We pick up that talking about ourselves is somehow wrong or demeaning. Yet as business owners, we’re quite happy to spend significant amounts of money on advertising and other marketing strategies to do just that – talk about ourselves and the great products and services we sell.

In order to be a successful networker, you do of course need confidence in your products and services. More importantly, though, you need confidence in your ability to communicate with the people you meet at various networking events.

Each event provides an opportunity for you to build effective and profitable relationships with contacts who can and will identify new business opportunities for you.

All too frequently business people don’t take “referred business” seriously. Instead, they’re viewed as the occasional, passive sale that comes in from a recommendation by an existing client. Even some of the most talented business people achieve far less referred business than should be expected given their skills, experience and reputation in the market place.

So where is everyone going wrong?

The first thing is that with word of mouth, human nature comes in to play. Generally speaking people only do something for someone else when they are motivated to do so. Your contacts will only refer you business where you have motivated them. The fact that you are good at your job will seldom be enough motivation for someone else to look for business for you!

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The second point is that we are all different. That means people have different motivations; and unless you can read these motivations quickly, you won’t succeed in getting people to help you.

Some networking strategies:

  • Know your focus. When attending an event, don’t try to meet as many people as possible, trust isn’t built from a stack of business cards.
  • Listen and ask questions. You have two ears and one mouth so remember to use them proportionately, also don’t assume that your target person already knows your business.
  • Give referrals whenever possible. A good networker should believe “givers gain!” Showing people that you understand their needs and making informed. suggestions on who to work with will demonstrate to both parties what a switched on networker you are.
  • Don’t try and close any deals. Networking should be used to develop relationships with other professionals and not an event to hit businesspeople to buy your products or services.
  • Write notes on the backs of business cards you collect. This will help jog your memory when you make contact with them and will help in building rapport.
  • Follow up. If you’ve discussed catching up with someone, call within three days of meeting them. Otherwise, just write a brief hand written note (to keep it personable) saying it was great to meet them.

Adopting an approach which harnesses the power of your relationships and actively drives word of mouth will deliver more, better quality appointments for less effort, and significantly shorten the sales cycle.

How has word of mouth helped build your business? What networking strategies have you used to actively drive word of mouth business your way? Share your tips below.