For most people in business, the secret to having good referral partners is done through networking. We all have a network in our lives. The plumber or electrician you use was most likely found on a referral through a friend. How often have you said – love that outfit, where did you buy it? Reading Tripadvisor reviews before booking hotels is a given these days.
Most people like to have someone else tell them that the service or product they are interested in is good. Having a network in place makes sense as a way to save time when you need certain services, to build referral networks and to be seen as a go-to person when your clients need assistance outside of your business scope.
To build a professional network, we need to change our views. We tend to view networking as a highly caricatured activity. However, if you try looking at it differently, you’ll be able to see it as an activity that can help you make interesting friends. This will lead in the long term to partners who share common goals.
Approach networking with the idea that you are building your own sales team – people who will happily be a cheerleader for your business. Nurturing these relationships can also bring you a professional network to share with your community and client base.
Having attended one too many networking events in the past, filled with “business card swappers” has undoubtedly left all of us feeling jilted. Look for people who are thought leaders in their fields, have shared LinkedIn connections, or attend the same conferences as you. You can even try looking for people who have similar holiday destinations!
Less is truly more in the networking world, filter people and declutter your never-ending contact list. Thinking about the strategic partnerships you can make is also a great way to look at increasing your professional network.
Try taking this short self-assessment we found via the Harvard Business Review to gauge the strength of your network. Your networks usually help you gain access to elite professional groups. Our Director, Sandra Karamitelios will vouch for this as it led her to becoming part of the coveted global recruitment network NPA Worldwide; membership required her to have references from existing group members.
Networking can be time consuming, so choosing the right place to network and the right people to network with can be a long and arduous process. Lots of networking events happen outside of business hours, for those with busy schedules, family obligations this can make attending these events impossible. For people who are more internally referenced or introverted, networking is not always a comfortable experience. Speak to people you know and trust, find out where they network and how they have formed strong strategic partnerships, see what worked for them and apply that to your business.
Using these tips and developing a thoughtful strategy to build lasting relationships will eventually lead you to a better professional journey. As a result, you can actually enjoy your time with the company of other professionals you can trust.
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