A friend of mine joined a business networking group to gain referrals from other members, but found himself under pressure to hand them out, too.
A few months on he realised that the leads he was receiving from members of the group were far from his ideal clients, and that being so heavily referral focused meant the group failed to provide the personal support he was looking for as a relatively new soloist.
He switched from his original, highly structured, business networking group to one with a similar level of commitment, but a more relaxed approach and was relieved to no longer be on the lookout for referral opportunities morning, noon and night.
The new group proved to be a real turning point for him.
“I’ve only picked up two or three referrals from the members of my new group,” he told me, “but I’ve gained more than 30 new clients by applying the advice they’ve shared with me.”
This is a far better fit for Garry than the original, pushy group. The new gang have helped my mate realise his business can gain a lot more from his networking than simple sales, and that has spurred him into action.
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Armed with the understanding that his ideal client lives or works within a very small radius of his place of business, he is busily putting himself out there in our local community. He’s chatting with shopkeepers and people at bus stops, volunteering for the kids’ soccer team, and setting up opportunities for other locals to connect with each other.
In some contexts, this approach could feel a little creepy, but in Garry’s case it doesn’t, because it’s a natural fit with his outgoing personality. More importantly though, it’s because when he approaches you for a chat, you instantly sense he has no hidden agenda.
No sales pitch, no e-mail newsletter signup, no hassling you to take his business card. Just a genuine interest in people, a thirst for exchanging ideas, and an open mind about where the conversation may lead.
Have you thought about your own business networking agenda lately? We’d love to know more about what works for you, and what doesn’t. Comment below.