The perks of being a great networker
Being a great networker is a key advantage in our business. It is widely acknowledged that the ability to give a good referral and to put yourself in a position to receive quality referrals, is essential to being successful in professional services environments.
There are many types of networkers, with the most rudimentary method of “referrals” being: telling a whole lot of people what you do and sit in your office waiting for the phone to ring or the email inbox to light up. Let’s call this the Neanderthal Referrer. Only marginally better is the Cro-Magnon Referrer who at least ventures out of the office to meet with people but still sits there drinking their coffee waiting for their companion to tell them that they require his or her services.
Any proper referral relationship goes two ways. We move out of the Stone Age and consider the first variation of Modern Referrers. This person will attend the meeting with the potential client and actively listen to their wants and needs. After listening and digesting the information, they will consider what services they can offer, then suggest one or more services that are going to be of value to the potential client. Here, some value goes both ways because the potential recipient is getting a service they require and will, presumably, be better off for having received it.
This interaction can be further improved by both parties discussing what services they provide and making the process truly two-way. This is, in our experience, about as far as most referrers have developed…
But the best ones are 3 Dimensional Referrers (3DRs). A 3DR is constantly communicating with people. They find reasons to email someone, call them or catch up for a cup of tea or bite to eat. They never “spam” people because they always have a very genuine reason for making contact.
Whenever they are with someone, and even most of the time that they are not, the 3DR is thinking “who in my network of contacts should this person meet?” Who will they be able to collaborate with? Then when they see a genuine opportunity they make the introduction and follow through. The 3DR takes time and great pride when something fruitful comes from their match-making.
Importantly, the 3DR gets no direct financial return for their investment of time and thought. Zero. However, the goodwill generated and the bonds created are so valuable, even if they are impossible to accurately quantify, the 3 Dimensional Referrer becomes the greatest asset any firm can have.
This is not a new concept but it’s one relatively few get right. I recently heard a story, sadly at a funeral, of a businessman who was a 3DR decades before such a title was in vogue. Long before the days of email, mobile phones and social media, he had a rubber stamp made up. When he was meeting with a contact in their office, he would find an opportunity to stamp a random page of the contact’s diary.
The stamp said “What have you done for Jim Watson today?” So at some time after meeting with Jim, the contact would open his diary to see that message. This proved highly successful, one because it was innovative but more importantly because Jim was constantly looking to assist his network of referrers. People were happy to do something for Jim because he had, directly or indirectly, done something for them.
JFK famously said “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.” But 3DR’s can ask what a contact will do for them, as long as they are doing something for their contact.