We write frequently, if not continuously! – on the importance of networking to generate referrals – for jobs, new clients or clients, or new business partners.
A good networker doesn’t just ask for references. A good networker makes it easy for a networking partner to make good referrals, either on the spot or at a later date, by making it clear Who will appreciate having the opportunity to meet you!
A 30 second commercial cannot do this!
In any networking situation, you will need to take the time to describe your ideal prospect in detail.
This description can only happen in a real, long conversation where you make your needs known and also learn about the needs of the person you are talking to.
Three questions your network partner should know the answers to:
1. What type of client or business do you serve??
This should be relatively easy for you to describe. Do you work with small businesses? (What is your definition of “small”?) Start-ups? Companies looking for buyers? Publicly or privately owned? National or international?
What industry are they in? What particular niche in that industry? Again, what you are looking for will depend on your experience and interests.
Be as specific as you can. Saying you’re “in biotech” doesn’t help. Saying that you are looking for a biotech company that needs specialized expertise or power in its compliance division makes things much clearer for your network partner.
2. What position or title do you work for within the company?
Depending on the size of the business and your particular skill set, are you looking for an owner recommendation? CEO or president? Director of Operations or General Manager? CIO? Vice President of Sales? Vice President of Marketing?
You generally DO NOT want a referral that takes you to HR unless you are looking for an answer in a form letter, because that is all you are likely to get.
As you network, make the title or management level clear to your potential referrer. If your network partner doesn’t have connections at that level, you probably can’t wait for a valuable recommendation. On the other hand, you may be able to help that person with a referral of your own. Take the time to find out!
(Naturally, if you’ve already made a list of potential business prospects, you might even have the name of the particular person you want to connect with. LinkedIn provides amazing resources in this regard.)
3. What a problem for that person in that business you solve?
It is up to you to know what problems your industry faces. In fact, if you are following the news, you may know what very particular difficulties your potential chosen companies are facing. (Press releases, annual reports, and even regular news articles are good sources for uncovering problems.)
Senior executives and consultants are hired not to fill an empty position, but because they meet a perceived need or can solve urgent problems..
Part of your networking plan is to have the answers to these three questions prepared before attending any networking function, as the answers are likely to change for each event. Skipping this preparation can cause you to lose a good reference or, worse, waste your time.