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Your New Referral Network: It’s Always About the People You Know

Team effortWouldn’t it be great if you had loads of people out there selling for you and you didn’t have to pay them to make sales? This low- to no-cost sales force would find sales leads, put you in touch with the right sales prospects, and maybe even make the sale. Sound realistic? Actually, it is.

Your Affinity Network

There is a non-traditional source of referrals that we don’t often consider. I call it your “Affinity Network.” These are your natural, everyday cultural, geographic, and special-interest connections that can lead to new and increased sales.

Think about people you know, with whom you share the same cultural background (or geographic area or country). There is an affinity – a connection – among those with a common custom, perspective, or manner. In the United States, the South, the Midwest, New England … each has its own social, business, and historical culture. People from these locations often share a certain manner of speech, approach, or perspective. Think about it: Tapping into this Referral Network can provide a natural connection to new networks and new business-development opportunities.

What about others who share the same political agenda or passion for travel or sports? You feel an immediate connection to them – a natural liking, inclination, or feeling of identification.

Tap into this connection and build your referral business through your new Referral Network.

The Cultural Connector

Cultural connections can be a powerful lever in creating new sales opportunities. Think of a British businessman working for a company in the United States. The company has an important sales lead in the United Kingdom. Who would this company send to explore the new opportunity? Given the choice, it wouldn’t be someone from Texas or New York or Asia or Latin America. Smart sales execs would send the Brit, because he would more likely be perceived as “one of them.” This immediate network connection could potentially seal the sale. The sales approach, conversation, and tempo of new business development would more likely be in keeping with the client’s culture. Familiarity breeds comfort, breeds trust, breeds new sales opportunities.

I was working with the Asia-Pacific sales group of a large organization. I needed to know more about the cultural nuances involved in building relationships and referrals in that part of the world. That part wasn’t difficult to discover; I simply asked the client for some background. My biggest challenge was to make an immediate connection with the group. I began by telling them that I was fortunate enough to have made a trip to China a few months before and that I had learned two words in Mandarin – “hello” and “thank you.” I recited those two words, and they all laughed and said that my accent was really good. We connected immediately.

The Travel Connector

Travel is one of the greatest connectors. No matter what your nationality, if you are traveling in another country, you immediately gravitate to people “from home.” One of my hobbies is hiking. My sister and I travel together every year – typically on great outdoor excursions. Recently, we traveled to Patagonia. We stayed at a fabulous lodge and went on organized hikes twice a day. On our last day, I was hiking with a couple from New England. It turns out that I was familiar with the man’s industry and, in fact, I was good friends with one of the key leaders in his professional networking association. We exchanged cards (yes, I always carry business cards) and I continue to stay in touch. In fact, I might hear from him when he reads this newsletter.

The Sports Connector

And what about sports? It’s not just a “guy thing.” Before I visit a client in any city in the world, I find out how the local professional sports teams are doing. We can exult if they’re doing well and commiserate if they’re doing poorly. Football, basketball, baseball, soccer, cricket … there’s something going on all year long. And if you’re traveling in the Midwestern United States, know your college ball!

Get Human, Get Personal

You get the picture; if you can establish a common interest, the networking connection is immediate … and significant. The faster you can tap into the various connections you have, the faster you will become accepted and build your new Referral Network.

In this era of distinctly social networking, the more personal and human your connection with people is, the more valued the connection will be. Your new Referral Network will become a powerful source of new sales for you. Your sales prospecting will never be the same.

Tap into your Referral Network: Leverage your personal network and connections to propel your sales!

4 Responses to Your New Referral Network: It’s Always About the People You Know

  1. Hi Joanne.
    Your comments about affinity networks inspired another idea for me which I’ll be acting on. I worked at one company for 16 years and developed dozens of relationships there. Not only have I moved on but so have those many people I had connections with. Though I’ve connected with many on LinkedIn, I haven’t done much to promote my services as a consultant to them in their new organizations but will think of an approach. (Feel free to chime in if you have ideas on that.) Thanks for the “spark”.

  2. I’m interested in your opinion about Facebook’s value in referral business.

  3. Marls:
    Check back with your former co-workers and offer to get together or at least have a phone conversation. Learn what each of you is doing. Go with the “headset” of sharing information. You never know where the conversation will lead.

    Regarding Facebook and other social networking sites: They are good for three things:
    1. SEO
    2. Finding who people are
    3. Finding out who they know

    Then you need to pick up the phone and talk!

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