If I've been asked this question once, I've been asked it a hundred times: What is the one secret to success when networking for business?
In order to be successful in building relationships that will lead to business referrals and opportunities, there are four things you need to focus on:
1. Be selective.
Quality is first on the list for a reason. The process begins by being very selective about who you bring into your circle of business networking relationships. You want your network to include quality business professionals who have a positive, supportive attitude. You also want people who are good at what they do.
Effective networking is dependent on the quality of the relationships you develop. If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, you won't be getting the referrals you expect. Therefore, it is important to build meaningful relationships with your referral partners over an extended period of time if you want to generate more business.
2. Continuously add people to your network.
Years ago, I learned that there is a dramatic correlation between the size of a quality group and the number of referrals that are generated by that group.
In your network, the number of possible business referral connections is a squared multiple of the actual number of people in your network. So as you begin to build your own network of referral relationships, keep in mind that the more, the better. The bottom line is that the greater the number of connections you have (based on quality relationships of course), the more referrals you can generate. The math is pretty significant and consistent.
3. Seek engagement.
Engagement involves a promise and an action. In order to achieve success in your networking relationships, you and your contacts must promise to support one another and take the actions necessary to fulfill that promise.
There are many ways that you can become engaged. Have you taken the time to regularly meet with the people in your network? Have you educated them on the key features of your business so that your products or services will be top-of-mind as they meet others who have a need for them? Have you educated yourself on the key features of their businesses so that you can do the same?
The greater the number of people in your network engaged in these activities, the more likely they will be to generate significant referrals. The reason for this is a shared vision of success and a shared implementation of that vision.
4. Share stories.
Listening closely to information shared by those in your referral network will help you tell positive stories about them when you see potential opportunities to refer them. Holding regular meetings with contacts in your network will help you tell stories when you give referrals and vice versa.
A good story compels people to take action. If you want to build your network in order to generate more referrals, place story-telling at the top of your efforts. Facts tell, but stories sell.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.