Patti DeNucci is a regular contributor to intrepidNOW, writing about people who want to live, work, and connect at a higher level.
Studies and experience prove it: the best job and business opportunities and the most valuable clients and resources often show up via connections and referrals. What’s more, studies show it can be as much as 60% more effective to leverage referrals and recommendations than it is to stab blindly into the abyss via cold calls and the notorious “Spray & Pray” methods of self-promotion.
Thus the adage: It’s not what you know, but who you know ̶ and what and who they know.
Ask any successful professional or business owner how they attract their best job opportunities and customers, find their most valuable suppliers and resources, get the best and latest industry information, learn best practices in their field, and meet their most treasured colleagues and advisors. They’ll likely tell you these invaluable assets came to them via someone they know, value, and trust.
That said, it can pay off immensely not only to be connected, but to also be a Connector: the one who generously provides introductions, connections, referrals and recommendations to others.
Ah, but not so fast! There’s a caveat here.
If you’re going to be a generous and prolific Connector, it’s essential to practice these essential habits. Forego these and your connections can backfire. Worse, your reputation could be put at risk.
It’s time to move beyond being just another enthusiastic, well-meaning Networking Ninja, the hyperactive giver who impulsively connects the dots (e.g., “Mary, Bob: Connect!”), and make a conscious effort to become a true Connections Connoisseur. Here’s how:
1. Understand that referrals, recommendations, endorsements, introductions, and connections create ripples, whether positive or negative. And they will either boost or erode your reputation. When connections go well, you’re the hero. When they don’t, you’re the goat. Which do you prefer?
2. Make every connection with the utmost care and diligence. Be sure before you refer. Strive to be thoughtful, discerning, intentional, and purposeful each and every time you make a referral, connection or introduction. Ultimately, the quality of these referrals and those you refer directly affects your brand and reputation.
3. Listen to others’ needs and requests carefully. Before you make any connections or referrals, listen closely to the person in need. Ask questions. Be sure you understand what they are saying and requesting. Take your time, take notes. Perhaps even sleep on it. Above all, take your role as Connector very seriously.
4. Offer options. Even if you’re totally confident in the people, organizations, information, or resources you connect or refer to others, remember that people like options and making their own final selections. Share what you know of the merits (or drawbacks) of each option.
5. Consider whether you’re even qualified to make the connection. Be sure you understand the request. And if you don’t have a solid recommendation to offer – perhaps it’s not your area of expertise or you really don’t know the right connection to make – don’t risk faking it. Simply say, “I’m really not the right person to help you with this.” Perhaps you can then suggest someone who could.
6. Develop a list of traits you look for in anyone or anything you refer or connect. What characteristics must people, organizations, and sources exude before you trust them enough to refer and connect them? Professionalism? Integrity? Responsiveness? Blow-your-mind-talent? Amazing customer service and results? Document these traits, keep adding to the list over time, and use it as your guide and measuring stick.
7. Avoid the impulse to make Hit & Run introductions. It can be fun and rewarding to introduce two favorite colleagues to each other, but do so with a clear purpose. Also be sure to communicate to both parties: why need to know each other, what they may have in common, how they might benefit from knowing each other, and any other information that could help break the ice, lead them to common ground, and make it a meaningful connection from the start.
8. Follow up, gather, and learn from feedback. So many people forget this part: the debrief. In other words, how are your connections turning out? Ask! The information you gather here will help you fine tune your referral skills immensely and give you insightful clues on how you can be a far better connector.
9. Realize that perfection is impossible. Even when you’re extremely particular and mindful in making referrals and connections, the results won’t always be perfect. Sometimes things just don’t work out. The chemistry or synergy just isn’t there. It happens. If things go awry, be humble and apologize. Chalk it up to learning and vow to do better next time.
Finally, learn from your connecting experience and keep upping the bar. You’ll soon establish, expand, and solidify your reputation as a supreme business matchmaker and top notch catalyst for great results. This can make you one of the most respected, trusted and valuable contacts in your professional circle and beyond. Your reputation for quality and discernment will grow, as will your own career or business. You’ll no longer be known simple as a Connector who knows people, but a Connector everyone wants to know.
- Connect with Care: Referral Blunders and Yellow Flags to Avoid - August 20, 2015
- 29 Reasons to Say Yes - July 12, 2015
- 12 traits that make you wildly attractive to clients and colleagues - June 4, 2015