You’ve probably heard that statement dozens of times in the business world. And it’s true. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as important how talented you are, or where you went to school, but what connections you have. And it’s even more unfortunate if you don’t have any connections.
You may run the best widget-making factory in the country. Your products may have won awards. But until someone has heard of you, they’ll never work with you. Which would you trust more: a salesperson calling on you to tell you how great their widgets are, or the referral of a long-time friend? The friend, obviously. So how do you make the connection from the friend to the sale?
Tap Your Resources
Make a list of all the people you know in the business world, as well as your friends and family. Are any of them in your industry? The majority probably aren’t, but you never know who they know. Drop a casual mention that you’re looking for clients in your field, and if they know of anyone who might benefit from your services, you’d appreciate the recommendation. Once you get their wheels turning, you’d be surprised how many people they know.
If your relationship is more formal, consider offering the individual a small compensation for a referral that turns into a sale, perhaps a percentage of the sale. It’s a small price to pay for solid business.
Your current and past customers likely have good connections. Contact them and ask for referrals in return for a discount on their next purchase.
There are thousands of networking groups across the country: some geared towards men or women, others toward specific industries, and others open to anyone who wants to meet other businesspeople. Find the ones that best suit your needs. The Chamber of Commerce in your area may have information on these groups.
The events usually revolve around a meal, and you’ll be sitting next to other people eager to meet likeminded individuals. Pass your business card around, but don’t be greedy to find sales. You may also find someone providing a service you need. Follow up to potential business with a thank you card and a call to action (“I’d like to meet next week to discuss how my services can improve your business’ operations.”)
Volunteering in a networking group can get you access to more people. Some groups sell table space for you to display your products and meet people; the prices are usually very affordable for the exposure they offer.
As you know, the internet is a great way to meet people. There are networking groups online as well, that serve as a wealth of information for growing businesses. Not only can you get advice on sales tax and Google advertising, but you can also post services you offer and connect with people through message boards.
If you have connections with a strong web presence, consider a banner exchange. On their/your Affiliates page, you would host the other’s banner, with a link to a website. People visiting your connection’s website will see you on there, and know you must have a good reputation to be affiliated with that company.
Don’t Stand Idly By
If you don’t put yourself out into the business world, your business will fail. It is more than a full-time job just to maintain contacts and make sales. Use your current and future contacts to generate business, and you’ll get back to having more time to do what you enjoy – running your business.