To make the most of business networking as a marketing strategy for your business it's important to master the art of generating referrals. Before I go further into picking the right time to ask for referrals let me make one thing clear; referrals do not come on a plate and do not come immediately. It's important when thinking about networking and as part of your marketing strategy to be patient, get to know like and trust your fellow networking colleagues, they will do the same about you and then the referrals will start to flow naturally and sometimes you'll wonder where they're all coming from.
Having said that there's still a right time and a wrong time to ask for a referral and get it wrong at your peril. Get it right and you'll be wondering why more people don't network, a wealth of free sales leads already warmed up and all for the relatively small cost of joining a networking group.
So how do you know when it's the right time to ask? Read on and all will be revealed and for the sake of repetition, the first point is when you feel you trust your contact because it's most likely that when you arrive at this point, so have they.
Another good time is when someone has just experienced excellent service from you. They will thank you and praise your service, you've helped them so what better time is there to ask them to help you?
Another variation on this point is when you've helped someone. For sure they may ask how they can help you in return - do not waste this opportunity! To hammer the nail home make sure that you have your patter short, sharp and to the point.
A third variation on this same point is when you know someone is about to ask for help from you - how relieved they will be if you ask for help from them first knowing they then can freely ask you for help.
Great opportunities come at funny moments and one to be ready for is when someone is really happy or has just had some good news. Sometimes good news doesn't come often and here's the rub about being patient again so be prepared to wait for the right moment. Conversely, the absolute worst time to ask for a referral is when someone has just had bad news, clearly they are going to be focused on themselves and certainly not you.
Furthering this point about ensuring that someone is in the right frame of mind to be receptive to your needs think about this when making phone calls. Have you ever received a phone call from someone when you're in the middle of something urgent or when you are just clearing the desk for the weekend? How receptive are your to someone asking you for a favor?. . . exactly. I know that when it happens to me I'm really short with the caller and will focus on getting rid of them rather than understanding why they've called. If you're going to ask for something over the phone, take the time to find out a convenient time when you can have a good conversation.
Special offers are always a good one. It doesn't have to be much and if you're well established in a network then this is a great way to make it easy for people to refer you and your services.
Passionate networker Louise Yates shares business networking techniques and advice for word of mouth marketing, generating referrals and sales leads. She also runs business coaching centres for business performance, life and career development.