Ever had the truism, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know?” trotted out by well meaning business advisors? Maybe it’s old fashioned as a sentiment now, but there remains more than a morsel of truth in it.
As I remember, it was usually said with a dose of cynicism, referencing another business constant of it’s time, “the old school tie network’.
The inference then was that you were unlikely to gain entry to whatever business you might be interested in, no matter how good you were at what you did, unless you were male and wore a tie that branded you part of a particular tribe. Or played golf and went in for long, liquid lunches.
Things have moved on, or have they? Maybe not in the world of big business. We are however in the midst of an explosion of entrepreneurship and nimble, nano businesses and we do things differently.
At a recent ‘deep’ dinner hosted by Carolyn Tate on matters Conscious Marketing, we discussed the language of business and what we would like to change in the interest of promoting meaningful business conversation. One such change was referrals to connections.
Referrals, reciprocity or connections
If reciprocity signalled a seismic shift in business referrals, then I believe there’s been an after shock since that is moving entrepreneurs even beyond the ‘give and you’ll get back’ school of business referral.
Reciprocity after all still smacks a little too much of scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, which is not so different to the old school tie network except you didn’t have to go to an elite school to play in that field.
Once you think connection rather than referral or reciprocity, the whole business of finding new business changes. This is where a paradigm shift occurs.
Vital nutrients, flexibility and resilience
Real connection is based on a relationship, a link, a bond. It’s not hardwired to business in the same way referrals are. It has much more to do with connecting to people who also happen to be business owners. Much more to do with human interaction, much more to do with wanting to be of service.
Here’s a question for you. If you weren’t in business, would you bother to refer anyone at all to anyone? I’d put forward the idea that to be engaged in a spirit of connection it means you’d connect people regardless of whether you were in business or you’d get a reciprocal benefit, otherwise you haven’t yet grasped the concept of connection.
High quality connections are life-giving . . . like a healthy blood vessel that connects parts of our body. A high quality connection between two people allows the transfer of vital nutrientsand is flexible and resilient. (The Power of High Quality Connections, Jane E. Dutton and Emily D. Heaphy)
There’s a new frame through which to perceive the power of connections – transfer of vital nutrients, flexible and resilient. So how does a referral stack up to that? What does that really mean in terms of you developing new business through a referral network.
Once you reframe referrals as connections, you create a different momentum. You find your self listening deeply to people and becoming excited the moment you realise they’re a perfect fit for someone else you know.
Writing an introduction email is a pleasure. You have to aptly capture what the person you have met does, the reason there is such a good match and explain what the other person does.
You need to do this in a way that allows both parties to instantly get that a connection between them could be mutually nourishing.
It’s immensely satisfying when such an introduction results in successful business between the two parties. Even hearing that they had a great coffee together is a good feeling.
Recently, I introduced an artist to an interior designer. They met for lunch, went to a gallery together and want to meet socially with their partners. Is it likely to eventuate in business for both? Possibly, but in different ways. The artist brings a certain cache to the interior designer’s clients, the interior designer may well be the conduit for a commission or more. Apart from anything, they just liked each other.
Well, if you mean would I grow my bottom line as a result of this and dozens of other introductions I have made this year? Not exactly. But like the matchmakers of old, I’m perceived as a trusted person in my business community and people are grateful for such attention to their business. What is evident though, is a subtle shift in the relationship I have with business colleagues.
Changing your business DNA
I’ve given myself permission to really care about my colleagues and how they succeed. I look out for stuff I can do to help them. It has just become part of my DNA, if you like. I no longer worry about the time involved or the return on investment. My phone rings more, my email inbox is fuller, more people comment on my book, connect with me, ask to meet with me. Can I honestly track this back to being a matchmaker? Absolutely. It’s a momentum thing.
If I review how I met my current clients, every one is as a result of connecting with either the client or someone who knew them on a meaningful level. Sharing something with them, introducing them to someone else, sending them a blog post of interest, sending them my book, talking about what they do with genuine interest to others, being a collaborator in their success.
It’s a great way to do business. And perhaps it really is as our older mentors once advised us, with just a small twist. “It’s not what you know, its about who you take the time to get to know.
This post has been part of our awesome World Carnival monthly event. This month the topic is: “The Ins and Outs, Ups and Downs of Business Referrals.