In recent years, the impact and importance of networking became even more evident and, for most business owners, this awareness did not always translate into additional business for the time that was invested. Networking for referrals can be the most cost effective way to build a business, yet most people miss 80% of the referral business they could get due to several mistakes made when meeting a potential referral network.
“Networking is easy, but not necessarily simple,” advises Debbra Sweet, a leadership performance coach. “In fact, effective networking, whether online or in person, requires skills to produce the results you want that lead to getting referrals and new clients and ultimately increase revenue.”
Sweet is a Certified Trainer of Strategic Word of Mouth Referral Networking for the world’s largest referral network where she taught business owners her unique skill set for over 20 years and led businesses to produce over $54 Million in closed revenue in the San Diego area in one year.
“Since online networking often edges out in person meetings, it’s very evident that we are actually more disconnected than ever on how to be effective with our networking time,” she says. “Many professionals are wonderful at what they do, but that does not make them great networkers. Effective networking needs new skills, insights and clarity of intention for results.”
A global survey that Sweet took part in found that 91% of people agree that networking is the largest factor to business growth, yet the soft skills required to network effectively are rarely taught, leaving a gap of knowledge on how to network to get referrals and ultimately build a bigger business.
Debbra Sweet says there are three common mistakes that most people make when networking online and offline that can cost them referrals.
Mistake #1 – Showing up unprepared. “One mistake I see business networkers consistently make is they show up unprepared without determining an intention before they arrive. They ‘wing’ their networking time and talk. Winging it is not a strategy. When you network, people can tell quickly when you lead your conversation this way. Most people think that simply because you meet a person and you can have a conversation with them that that is networking,” she says. “They assume a casual conversation will convert to referrals but are very disheartened that it doesn’t. You have to have a networking plan.”
Mistake #2 – Not understanding how to navigate different types of networking events. There are many different types of networking events including casual, professional, social, and service oriented to name a few. Sweet advises, “The framework for effectiveness with your time is understanding the network, and how to network in, up in each situation- while reflecting your leadership and building your brand reputation along the way. You can be authentic and network anytime, anyplace, anywhere – with professionalism. But to do that and build trust along the way starts with knowledge of how to show up regardless of the environment. How you network is a direct reflection of how you show up and serve in your business.”
Mistake #3 – Attempting to close a sale prematurely. A lifelong entrepreneur is no stranger to successes and shortcomings that impact both personal and professional networking outcomes. “It’s important and vital to understand the distinctions between transactional networking and relationship networking needed to create trust that will allow you to close a sale. Pouncing at the first ‘hello’ is not the way to earn trust that leads to ongoing referrals. This may seem obvious to some, but like a good cup of coffee – it’s better brewed versus instant.”
As a networking leader with decades of firsthand experience, Sweet is deeply passionate about helping others learn the skills needed to create relationships through networking that dramatically increase revenue for businesses. She shares, “You don’t have to be perfect in your skills, just be open to learning how to improve them to become a networking leader. Learning how to extend your support to help someone you meet and then organically weave an invitation to support you is a natural way to implement the law of reciprocity that leads to building the backbone of networking – trust.”
Debbra Sweet is a New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker, business strategist, and award-winning performer leadership coach based in San Diego, California. She’s the innovator of the Circle of 10™ Effective Networker Training Program and has created a complimentary guide, Top Ten Networking Mistakes That Prevent Referrals, that reveals how to network confidently and receive an abundance of referrals to successfully build a business.