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The Networking Trick That'll Increase Business

Start referring your contacts to other professionals and watch your business grow.

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When I was just starting my consulting business in the early'80s, I knew that I wanted networking and referral marketing tobe a major part of my business development strategy. One of thebiggest questions I had in mind at the time was, "How do Igenerate referrals for other people?"

Today, I'm asked that question a lot, and so I suspect thatmany of you might have that same concern. I'd like to sharewith you just one of the techniques I used that had a huge impacton my ability to provide quality referrals to others--which, ofcourse, led to me getting referrals.

I wanted to be the person others came to if they needed areferral for anything--the "Go-To Guy." Today, a personlike this is known as a "gate keeper" of referrals. Tobecome known as a gate keeper, one of the things I did was tocompose a letter that was sent out to my client list several timesa year. Today, you could send out a quick e-mail to your database,but send it at least once a year as hard copy just to stand outfrom everybody else who's e-mailing your clients. I'veexcerpted a sample letter below:

Dear _______:

I really believe in the process of referrals, and so part of theservice I provide is to be sure to refer my clients and associatesto other qualified businesspeople in the community.

Attached is a list of areas in which I know very credible,ethical and outstanding professionals in. If you're looking fora professional in a specific area I've listed, please feel freeto contact me. I will be glad to put you in touch with the people Iknow who provide these services.

Sincerely,
Dr. Ivan Misner

Notice when reading this letter, that I just listed professions;I didn't list names and phone numbers. I wanted my clients tocontact me so I could put the referral and the contact together. Iwanted to build relationships, not just become a glorified YellowPages. I wanted to become known as an effective networker, and thatwas done by making the connections myself.

I was trying to increase my visibility and establish mycredibility throughout the community. One way of establishingcredibility is to help other people attain what they want beforeyou start asking them to buy your product or services, or expectthem to make connections for you that'll further yourgoals.

I sent this letter out to all my clients (and prospects) fourtimes in the first year. I didn't even get one response untilthe third time. After the third time, the floodgates opened and Igot responses every time I sent it out. Eventually, I no longer hadto send it out multiple times each year because I had finallycultivated the reputation for being a gate keeper. People began tocome to me because of the reputation that I developed for knowingmany businesspeople in the community.

What began to happen was that others would ask someone on myclient list, "Who do you know who does XYZ?" If theydidn't know anyone, then they would send that person to me!

The importance of becoming a gate keeper is huge for anyentrepreneur seeking to grow his or her business with word-of-mouthmarketing. It's a strategy that gets people to not only contactyou for a referral, but also to open up a dialogue with peopleabout what your business is all about and how you can help them.This, in turn, leads to more business with existing clients and newbusiness with prospects.

In addition, the people on that list of professions worked hardto reciprocate and send people my way as well. They were anotherpart of the equation in the process. In time, even they would beginto come to me when they needed a referral for something. (Be sureto copy your letter to each professional represented on that list,letting them know that you're going to be sending businesstheir way.)

As I developed my mailing list, I would drop certain people offit with whom I didn't have any further contact. One timesomeone who had been dropped from my list called, stating that hemissed the letters! He had needed a referral for a certain businessand had to look up an old letter of mine he had kept on file. Iactually ended up doing some business with him as a result of thisincident.

This is just one technique to consider when building yourbusiness through referrals. It's a "touch point" thatputs you in contact with your clients and prospects in a way thatfosters different dynamics than when you're trying to sell tothem. You have something they need in the form of referrals andcontacts. Allow this to open the door for reciprocal sharing andgiving. You'll be amazed at how much more business you'llfind you're able to do with each other as a result.

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