Jacky Sherman

The Consultant's Consultant

07970 638857


Business Networking: No Pressure To Refer

Well, what's the point of going then?



I'm always fascinated by networking groups who list one of their main benefits to members is ''there is no pressure to refer''. How odd, as I also hear people who go networking complain that it is a waste of time when they don't get referrals ...

If you turn a business networking event into a game, you'll get more referrals!

If you turn a business networking event into a game, you'll get more referrals!

copyright: elnur / 123rf stock photo

So we expect referrals, but don't want to give them. Yet we know (or should know) that if we're serious about referral marketing then giving referrals is an essential component in receiving them.

"Actually, I think what we don't like is feeling coerced into giving them!"

Now some networking groups do have a policy that they expect their members to contribute by bringing referrals to the group. They are stating that this is a business meeting with the primary intent to generate business for their members through referrals, so it is not just a social occasion.

Groups like this can be very successful and many do give significantly higher rates of referrals than more informal networks. They also have their downside though.

If giving referrals are seen as a pressure, something someone else says you have to do, then one of two things happen:

  • People choose not to play at all or,

  • They engage in tactics devised just to cover themselves and tick the monitoring scheme boxes

In other words, they give spurious referrals that were never going to turn into new business so it looks good in the meeting, but just wastes their fellow members time and damages their own reputation.

In other forms of referral marketing, there can still be pressure to refer but the pressure here is more self-imposed. Some people opt out of this lucrative form of generating business purely because they feel guilty or inadequate as they feel they will not be able to refer to others.

Some offer financial incentives such as introducers fees or commission of as much as 20% for referrals, often to avoid the need to reciprocate (that's a subject for a whole other blog post).

"So we want referrals and to get them we need to give referrals, but we don't like feeling pressured to do this!"

How can we reconcile this? Well, how about making it fun, take the pressure off, turn giving a referral into a puzzle game. By this, I mean a board game like Cluedo or crosswords or on-line adventure quests with clues to solve the puzzle. Let's look at how that might work.

First is to think of it as fun, not life or death. The personal satisfaction comes when you solve the puzzle and the whole journey of deciphering the clues is part of the enjoyment. It needs to be hard enough to challenge you, but not so hard that you fling it across the room.

Here are the steps in a game I call 'Who Can I Introduce To You?' The aim of the game is to introduce someone who needs your partner's service. The journey is to collect as many clues as possible to help you move to the next level.

  1. Level One: Find a partner.

    Who in your network would you really like to help? How good is your relationship? Personally as well as in business? Would you trust them to deliver for your best client? Would they trust you? Give your relationship a score out of 10. If they don't score 10 then what do you need to do to move closer to 10? Work on that before moving up a level.

  2. Level Two: Invite them to play.

    What's in it for them? Remember the aim of the game is for you to find them a potential client. If they agree to a one-to-one meeting for you to collect more clues then move to the next level.

  3. Level Three: Collect your clues.

    You need four types of clues. Many people can't answer these questions straight away, so be prepared to have to use your magnifying glass, ask lots more questions to uncover the clues.

    • What services do they offer? Make sure you really understand what they do.

    • What need(s) do they meet? What makes their clients need these services?

    • What type of person and /or company are their ideal clients? Who actually buys from them?

    • What evidence can they provide that you can share to inspire a prospective client? What will make your contact to want to meet them?

    When a name pops into your head, you're ready to move to Level Four. This may not be someone who you can refer at this point, but simply identifies that you know the type of person to look for.

  4. Level Four. Who do you know who matches these clues?

    Now search your database, your address book and your memory and list all the possible people you know who match these clues. Are you willing to introduce them? Re-score them out of 10. If they score 10 then move to Level Six.

    If you can't identify someone or just want to identify new people to add to both of your networks then go to Level Five. Well done. You're now entering the mastery levels.

  5. Level Five. Spotting new opportunities.

    What can you look out for or listen for that will help you identify new people to introduce you to your partner? What questions should you ask that will identify they have a need? Your partner will have to provide you with this information so be prepared to help them do this.

  6. Level Six. Make the introduction.

    Talk to your contact about your partner and how they might help? Ask if they would like to meet them. If yes then arrange the introduction and move to Level Seven.

  7. Level Seven. Congratulations you're now a referrer!

    Stay in the game by keeping in touch with both parties and play again.

This game works well if you and your partner play together, both finding referrals for each other. To achieve real mastery learn together how to build a joint strategy and apply best practice in referral marketing.

And, of course, if you'd like some help, call me on 07970 638857 or click here to send me an email and let's see how I can help you.

Until next time ...


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