Networking Skills That Win You Referrals

Networking Skills That Win You Referrals
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Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI
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Many entrepreneurs rely on referral marketing, or the use of personal recommendations through networking, to spread the word about their business. When you've taken the time to build the right relationships, referral marketing can be a substantial part of your business. In fact, in a 2012 survey by the Referral Institute, 92 percent of 12,000 people said that networking played an important role in their success.

But when I ask entrepreneurs if they are getting all the referrals they want when networking, nearly every person says no. They all talk about wanting more referrals, but they have no plan for how to get them.

Where to begin? Let's start with your "behavioral style," a term that refers to what motivates you. There are four common behavioral styles people can fall into:

Nurturer: Slower-paced, people-oriented, dislikes confrontation, and likes taking care of others.
Promoter: Fast-paced, people-oriented, gregarious and likes to be in the spotlight.
Examiner: Slower-paced, task-oriented, methodical, relies on the facts and dislikes hype.
Go-Getter: Fast-paced, task-oriented, driven and hates being wrong about anything.

Related: Don't Waste Another Networking Opportunity: 6 Tips for Following Up 

As an entrepreneur, it is vital that you understand your own behavioral style, learn how to quickly identify behavioral styles in others and, most importantly, adapt your own approach to those different styles.

For example, imagine you're a florist at a networking function, and you meet a wedding planner. You're enjoying your conversation and you feel that this could be a good connection, so you decide to set up a lunch meeting.

At lunch, you're grilled with questions. Your new contact wants to know how long you've been in business, what your company organization looks like, all your products and services as well as your pricing, not to mention a laundry list of technical questions.

For a Nurturer this interrogation might seem off-putting in the context of a "get to know you better" meeting. But for an Examiner, this approach is completely natural. What seems comfortable to one person may seem either confrontational or rude to the other. While some people need as much information as they can get to move forward in a relationship, others like to ease in more gradually, taking their time to get to know you as a person before getting to know your business.

To be clear: neither person in this scenario is right or wrong. This is about how people are wired. Usually people behave in the way that's most natural to them, but if you aren't attuned to the behavioral style of the person you're dealing with, both sides could walk away feeling awkward and exhausted. 

Related: Networking Strategies for People Who Hate Networking

There are signs to watch out for that will clue you into what behavioral style you've got on your hands. Nurturers have a relaxed disposition and tend to be warm and friendly. They are good team players but are risk-averse. Promoters prefer to schmooze with clients over lunch rather than work on a proposal in the office. They are idea-people and dreamers who excel at getting others excited. They are risk-takers who are not inclined to do their homework or check out detailed information. Examiners are generally in control of their emotions and may be uncomfortable around people who are less self-contained. They tend to see the complex side of situations, but they also have a tendency to have an off-the-wall sense of humor. Finally, Go-Getters believe in expedience and are not afraid to bend the rules. They figure it is easier to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission. They are so focused that they can appear aloof.

Once you identify a person's behavioral style, you can tailor yours to match. If you're dealing with a Nurturer, be patient and ask questions to get to know them as a person. If you have a Promoter on your hands, be excited about the news they have to share about themselves. If you are dealing with an Examiner, come prepared with facts and data and be willing to listen to the information they share. If you're dealing with a Go-Getter, get to the point fast, be concise, and be gone.

Related: How to Win a Business Negotiation

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