Not enough referrals? Review your own actions before blaming the group

I recently heard a business person complain they belong to several networking groups, but the number of referrals they receive remains far too low.

A referral network is not an overnight endeavor. It takes a long time to establish. One of the biggest misconceptions people have about referral networking is the belief they’ve established a referral network just because they belong to a group.

Simply put, the mere fact you show up for meetings doesn’t mean you’ve built a successful referral network. Moreover, a contact made doesn’t imply you’ll have referrals rolling in. Still, many people blame their contacts in their networking groups when there are no referrals.

What’s really happening?

As a business person, if you’re saying, “My network is not motivated,” have you stopped to consider why they should be motivated to refer customers to you? What are you doing to motivate them?

Maybe you’ve thought, “My network just doesn’t understand my business.” Have you taken the time to help them understand?

Or possibly, you have thought to yourself, “My network just doesn’t seem to have the contacts I need.” Have you asked them who their customers or contacts are?

Here’s the truth of the matter. It’s your job to teach your fellow referral partners how to refer to you. If they’re not referring to you, it simply means you need to do a better job at connecting, becoming visible and gaining the trust of the potential pool of referral partners.

Here a few things you might want to try:

1. When meeting with a referral partner, consider telling them about a couple of the most recent customers you’ve helped.

2. For referral partners that have the same customer base, and you offer complementary services to each other, consider asking them if it would be all right to include their sales materials with the information you give your clients. Don’t be surprised when they ask if they can return the favor by including your information in their communications.

3. Host an informal open house and invite your referral partners. Provide some snacks along with brochures, awards, testimonials and other representations of what your business is about. Sometimes you’ll learn the most about people when they’re in informal situations. Chances are good they’ll be more receptive to your information.

4. Regardless of the group to which you belong, find a leadership role or some other role you can hold that will increase your visibility. This type of role will not only increase your credibility with the group as they see you take on responsibility, but also can give you extra credentials your clients will see as more authoritative.

5. Maintain records of when you meet with each of your referral partners and make sure you’re meeting them on a regular basis. Without records, you might think you just had coffee with them, when in reality it’s been six weeks. Consistency is key in maintaining good networking relationships.

When things don’t turn out right and referrals just aren’t flowing in the door, don’t blame others. Accept responsibility and work with your referral network.

Ivan Misner — the founder of BNI and best-selling author known as the father of networking — has said on many occasions: “One of the strengths of a referral network is that everyone can become friends. And one of the weaknesses of a referral network is that everyone can become friends.”

Take responsibility for yourself and realize the first person you need to be accountable to is you. If you’re blaming your networking group for malfunctioning, look to what you’ve been doing and make sure you’ve done your job.