How much value are you leaving hidden in your network?

Posted on:03. 02. 2016

By Cliff Findlay

The fact that 82% of business is generated through referral should ring alarm bells and make people rethink how they network and how they introduce others. If this fact is to be believed then the power and finance generated by referral globally is huge. For instance, if you look at the B2B market in the US alone – worth $232 billion – this means that $190.24 billion of business is directed and won through people asking other people who they should speak too!

In our survey last year we went a step further and asked business owners at what cost point they use Google to find a supplier and at what point they ask their network. 93% of business owners said that when they are looking to pay £5,000 (per annum) and above on a service provider they will ask their network first to recommend a provider. 93%!

This means two things. Firstly, a lot of businesses are wasting a huge amount of money on SEO. And secondly, they should be focused on networking and working out how to monetise their contacts. And yet, I come across people all the time who seem to take for granted that you can introduce them to people without them seeing the real value of you giving them access to other givers and potential business feeders.

So what benefits does a powerful network bring, what should you look out for and what does it take to build one?

Well from my thinking (I’ve been networking in London now for over 17 years) I can see three ways a good network can provide:

  1. Referrals (direct leads into potential clients who they have either stumbled upon or who have asked them for a contact)
  2. Connections (links to businesses or people who may have access to the type of client you are looking for)
  3. Free advice (often incredibly undervalued and can at times be worth many thousands of pounds)

All three build value and all three should be looked out for.

So what do you need to do to build a great network? For me there are four cardinal rules.

Be selective.
Work out where the best Networks meet and where you might meet like-minded peers, no point in networking in a place where you won’t find anyone you want to meet.

Have a strategy.
Work out how long you wish to be at a meeting, how many people you wish to meet. Really think about what you ask for as people need to be stimulated for them to focus. Look at who you naturally feed business too and who naturally feeds your business and hunt for both.

Build long term trust.
Don’t just think you meet people and they immediately give you business, you must build trust. Multiple meetings need to be diarised and followed up. I have often found that it has taken three meetings to start to really get under the skin of a contact and introduce them to a very good strategic contact of mine.

Give. 
In Adam Grants book ‘give and take’ he states: “The worst performers and the best performers are givers; takers and matchers are more likely to land in the middle”. Therefore to be the best you must focus on giving, however the caveat is you MUST have a strategy.

Lastly, remember networking and referral based marketing is a long game, it is one that takes time to build. You must build momentum, continue to feed that momentum and stay focused and positive. However, once built, the rewards can be huge. So stick with it and watch out for those sneaky people who only take!

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