I believe the best way to obtain quality referrals, is by having a one-on-one meeting. Preferably face to face but it can work online through direct or private messages. One-on-one meetings help you learn the details of how to market the services of an associate to people you are connected to online and offline. Even Twitter realizes the need to meet with followers for networking purposes when logistically practical. Thusly, Twitter has coined the phrase “Tweet up.” Meeting one-on-one will not be effective without a marketing strategy and commitment by both parties to share information that will help or contribute to marketing each other’s services to each other’s associates. This is the point where I will, once again, share a personal definition of business/Career networking: Building relationships by striving to share advice, information, resources and referrals that will help or contribute to the business or professional development of your connection, friend, fan or member. The operative word is sharing and the sharing begins in the one-on-one meeting. Both parties will ask and answer the questions in the S.H.A.R.I.N.G. track.
What type of information are you sharing during your one-on-one meetings or Tweet ups? Here’s a help. Following are 7 steps toward providing business networking referrals through S.H.A.R.I.N.G.:
Service or product specialties: Ask, “What product or services do you or your company specialize in?” List no more than 3 or 4. For example, an associate of mine is an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) specialist. In addition to providing SEO services, his company also develops or revises web sites and provides assistance with writing Blogs and press releases for additional brand visibility.
Help or contribute. Ask, “How can I help or contribute to your business or professional development?” For example, my SEO specialist associate said to “provide referrals that need to generate sales leads or web marketing strategies to position their services in the top positions on search engines like Google and Yahoo, or to update their web site or develop a new web site.”
Approach a prospective referral. Ask, “How would you recommend I approach a prospective referral for you?” For example, my SEO specialist said that when I am in conversation with a prospective referral I should say “You know how when a prospect Google’s you? They type in key words related to your services and if you are not found on page one or two you are definitely missing out on potential sales. Well what my friend Al does is he gets and keeps your business seen in top search results consistently. What that means to you is that you consistently generate sales leads.” “Is this something important to you?”
Relate a service story. (Use the S-A-R format, S = Situation (Problem/Need) A = Action (Action taken to resolve problem) R = Result (Result of action taken, preferably, bottom-line impact or return on investment)) For example, my SEO specialist said “One of his SMB (small and medium business) clients: S = Needs to increase brand visibility and generate more sales leads across 3 market segments. A = Al’s SEO and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) monthly process set key metrics in the 3 market segments for increased brand visibility and lead generation on a consistent monthly basis. R = Delivering consistent measurable results (Month after month client is consistently in the top positions on Google/Yahoo) and has generated a 42% increase in sales leads on average across 3 market segments.”
Identify prospective referrals and where to find them. Ask, “Who are your most profitable prospective referrals and where will I most likely find them?” For example, my SEO specialist associate said for me to “look for small and medium businesses C-level staff members who are expressing, a sincere desire for ROI in marketing, brand visibility and lead generation. You can find them at B2B (Business to Business) networking groups like the Greater Houston Partnership and at Chamber events.”
Next level needs. Ask, “What would you need to do to take your business or profession to the next level?” For example, my SEO specialist associate said that he is looking to hire 4 inside sales reps who can qualify leads and 3 employees that have at least 2 years proven experience as effective networkers for new business development.
Giving what you want. Ask, “If I could wave a magic wand and resolve your top 2 business or professional development challenges, what challenges would they be?” For example, my SEO associate said that his “Top 2 challenges were a) recruiting sales staff willing to work for commission only, and b) finding a B2B (Business to Business) group that meets at noon or after hours.”