If you had told me four years ago that the man I met at a local business to business networking event would be a mentor, friend, and referral partner responsible for a huge chunk of my new business revenue, I wouldn’t have been able to pick him out of the crowd.
Although we are encouraged to network and develop our referral partner pipeline with quality relationships, it seems like an impossible task to determine who is worth our time and follow up effort.
When I am asked this question, the answer is simple – EVERYONE.
To exemplify the infinite opportunities of networking…
My company had recently joined a professional networking organization and, frankly, we were skeptical about the potential return on investment based on the initial membership fee ($15,000). To make sure we were getting our money’s worth, I was charged with attending as many events as possible to promote our company, find strategic partnership opportunities, and help our company to stay top of mind.
During one such event, I met a gentleman in passing. In line with my networking best practices*, I invited him for coffee with an agenda of mutual understanding that the goal was to simply learn more about each other. We shared our core services, target demographics, and growth strategies.
Over the next year and a half, we did not develop a formal working relationship. However, I stayed in touch with emails, sending him news from my company, and making a point to say hello to him at events.
A year and a half later, I needed some genuine help. I called on him for another meeting, this time to consult on the coming change in my career path. I knew that with his experience, connections, and unique prospective as a business coach, he would be able to to guide me past the rut I was in.
Here’s my favorite suggestion:
“Make a list of everything you do for your job. Every. Little. Thing. Then, rank those things in the order you enjoy doing them. You will easily find the top 3-5 things you love doing. Now, go find a job that is ONLY those things. Stop tolerating all the other parts because you think you have to. If you can’t find a job focused on your passion, make one”
This advice LITERALLY changed my life. A simple one hour meeting full of genuinely wonderful conversation eventually led me to opening my own business. All from a man I just met in passing at an event.
Once I was up and running, we had another coffee meeting to update him on what I was doing. (I drink a LOT of coffee!) Within four months, he referred me to a client of his. Three months later, I received a second referral. Although we had never worked together directly, we had a strong and longstanding relationship. We had a mutual respect and understood each others needs and work styles. For me, based on his word and recommendation, I was able to sign two clients with very little effort.
Wait… it’s about to get really good!
Today, approaching the one year mark with both clients, the gross revenue I can attribute to the man I met randomly at a networking event four years ago is…
So, who do you have coffee with? The answer is always, “everyone.”
Don’t worry, you won’t have to drink coffee all day, everyday! Just follow these three tips to get, and keep, quality referral partners in your networking pipeline:
- Offer coffee to everyone. Most people will not accept. The act of the invitation will leave a positive impression on everyone, but only those who are serious about developing their referral partner pipeline will actually take the time. They will weed themselves out!
- Set aside 1-2 time blocks on your calendar each week for networking meetings. You can send out a template invitation and, with the pre-scheduled time blocks, you don’t to stress over your schedule week to week. It doesn’t have to be a chore for you!
- Develop a recurring marketing drip campaign to maximize the value of your networking time. Sending a monthly email with valuable information will not only keep you top of mind with everyone you’ve met, but will put your contact info front and center. When they decide they need your services or they refer you, they will know how to find you quickly.
If you’re struggling to work your networking leads, join us online. We’ll help you develop your referral partner pipeline.