by Maile Collmer

There comes a time when business owners, entrepreneurs, self-employed professionals, and commissioned sales people reach a point of exhaustion and exasperation with all the time they spend networking for business without getting the results they really desire.

Networking can become an overwhelming part of the calendar. They realize that after investing so much time at networking breakfasts, lunches, mixers, dinners, meetings, and one to one coffee dates, it takes a lot of effort to meet the right people who will lead them to the business they want. Relationships that lead to referrals, that’s the key. It’s as simple as that. But how do you find the right people to build relationships with?

The real value of networking is building relationships with the people in the room, so they will introduce you to the people they know who could benefit from your product or service. Every person in that room represents hundreds of others! How do you get the people in the room to refer you to the people they know? It’s about finding the key people who can open the door to a flood of referrals for you. Who are those people? I call them your Contact Sphere. Your Contact Sphere is made up of connected - without competing - professions with a similar target market. Your Contact Sphere is made up of connected – without competing – professions with a similar target market. Contact Sphere = those businesses and professions that are complementary to yours without competing. When you build long-term relationships with people – educating them on how to refer you, and learning how to refer them – who have complementary services to yours and share a similar target market, you will create an excellent source of referrals.

Step 1 – Identify the best potential contact sphere members for you to be meeting. What are the professions who you easily refer your clients to? Could those business owners refer their clients to you? When your clients are coming to see you, who else are they meeting for complementary services? Here are some examples: Financial Advisor + Estate Planning Attorney + Mortgage Broker + Realtor + CPA + Banker Interior Designer + General Contractor + Architect + Appliance Rep + Painter + Electrician In my Certified Networker® program, I take my clients through a process where we brainstorm a list of 20+ professions. This helps expand their minds, think outside their current experience, and open up new opportunities.

Step 2 – Seek them out at all networking events. Ask for introductions. After brainstorming a list of professions, when you come across one at a networking event, you will be more likely to recognize that potential gold mine opportunity! I’ve said this about building a network before, “there is quality in quantity.” The more Contact Sphere members you meet, the more you have to choose from. Some may have different specialties, others may have different territories. There are many nuances to consider. There’s also the likability factor. Do you like the person? Did you “click” with them? Step 3 – Meet with your Contact Sphere contacts and build the relationship. For those who capture your interest – your first impression of them is they are professional, an expert, you like them – set up a time to meet with them face to face, one to one. Building a relationship beyond seeing each other at a networking event is essential. Get to know them and the nuances of their business. Find out what their niche is, how you can refer each other, what other opportunities you may have to collaborate. When you find the right Contact Sphere relationships, there will be a lot of valuable information you can share with each other, and a lot of referral opportunities! But What About..? “Hey, wait a minute!” You may be thinking, “you haven’t talked about getting referrals from clients, and my best referrals come from my clients.” I have heard this from so many people. It’s true, clients do give us great referrals. Here’s the difference… when we are looking at building a business with steady cash flow, with a steady and predictable stream of revenue, we need to create a reliable source of business. Client referrals tend to be infrequent and inconsistent. A well-developed Contact Sphere relationship can provide consistent referrals. Consider a Realtor. They can work their entire database of hundreds of clients, constantly keeping in contact with them through regular calls, visits, mailings, etc, to squeeze out a dozen referrals. Versus working with 4 great Contact Sphere relationships that result in eighteen to twenty-four listings in a year (which, of course, brings in even more business).

By developing a few strategic, deeper business referral relationships, that Realtor saves a lot of time and effort, and increases their profit. That’s why Contact Sphere relationships are the best source of referrals. Working with your Contact Sphere can save you time and bring consistency to your business revenue and cash flow.

Byline: Maile Collmer of the Referral Institute® is known for delivering high value content and has shared the stage with Susan RoAne & Dr. Ivan Misner. Her specialty is teaching entrepreneurs how to create their own powerful referral team that will bring them a consistent and predictable stream of referral business. You can reach Maile at 925-366-3823. Choose Blog Type: Marketing Tips