The journey to getting new business leads many business professionals down some interesting roads.
From innovative marketing ideas to strategic collaborations to sitting down in weekly referral groups to build business relationships, business owners and professionals often investigate a variety of tools to help their business grow. It is this last technique, referral groups, that is often the subject of much criticism.
Ask any business professional about their thoughts about referral groups and the answers are usually quite polarized…either they swear by their effectiveness or they absolutely abhor the idea of them. As is the case with any marketing idea or tool, it is the direct correlation of how much business has been closed because of the certain thing that helps people form their opinions about it. So, why is there such a difference of opinion among business professionals? Do referral groups work or not? Well, that depends on two simple variables…the quality of business referral skills YOU posses, and the quality that the others in the group posses.
You see, it doesn't really matter too much what kind of referral group you are in, what their rules are, or how they conduct business. When it comes right down to it, the biggest variable that matters is the PEOPLE. These groups are about building business relationships and getting and giving referrals. The fact of the matter is, so many people don't even know how to give a proper referral and even when they get one, they don't take the time to even follow up! It's as if they want business, but don't recognize it when it is handed to them. To be truly successful in a referral group, you have to give QUALITY referrals, encourage others to do the same, and make sure everyone follows up.
Even before this, though, you have to represent yourself in a way that would make someone want to give you a referral in the first place. If you are always late to the meeting or rarely show up, are never prepared and don't take the time to really tell others about your business in a way they can relate to, do you think they will be excited about referring business to you? Making sure that you represent yourself as a professional is key to your success in these groups. Now, you can definitely make changes to yourself in this respect, but what about the others in the referral group? You have two choices here really…either help to bring the others up to speed by training them how to give referrals properly, follow up, and conduct themselves in a professional manner, or go find a group of higher caliber people. It's that simple. Simply sticking around in a situation that is unproductive for you isn't likely to positively affect your business.
In short, referral groups CAN work, but not all do. Make sure that you conduct yourself in such a way as to get referrals from other members and if and when you do, follow up with them in a timely manner. In addition, if the members of your group are less than professional, offer to help train them, or go searching for a new one. The time you spend working on your business is valuable…don't waste it on a lackluster group of people especially when you have taken the time to develop high quality relationship marketing skills yourself.