We’ve all experienced it, haven’t we?
The Pounce. That person who makes a move too quickly, skips the ‘Getting to Know You’ phase and heads straight in for the action.
No, I’m not talking about dating – but, yes it does happen there too. I’m talking about networking.
Or to be more precise, seriously misguided attempts at networking that happen way too often!
It actually happened to me quite recently. I was trying out a new networking environment – a regular event but one I hadn’t been to before. I wanted to see if it would make sense to add into my regular schedule or not.
It was all going fairly well. I’d found the place easily enough. The welcome had been warm. I had spoken with a few interesting people and found some common ground with them.
And then it happened.
My next encounter went like this.
They started telling me about their business – not in any great detail, but enough so I could get a rough idea of what they did. They asked me a couple of questions about what I did, but nowhere near enough to work out who my target market was or how I added value for my clients.
I kid you not, the next words out of their mouth were ‘Here’s my business card. If you meet anyone who needs XXXX service, be sure to recommend me. I’ll do the same for you’.
And with that they were off to the next person. Leaving me stunned – and to be honest, feeling just a little bit grubby…
So, what went wrong?
The other person, who shall remain nameless – partly to spare their blushes, but also because I genuinely can’t remember their name (needless to say I threw away their business card) – failed to recognize that before we can go anywhere in a networking or referral relationship, we need to know each other and have a foundation of trust.
When we refer to someone we put our own reputations on the line. We effectively underwrite the other person’s services – their quality, their effectiveness and their honesty. We tell someone we know, who knows us and hopefully trusts us, that we think this other person will do a good job for them. Otherwise, why would we refer them.
If we don’t have the knowledge – or take the time to get that knowledge – to be sure that this is genuinely the case, we are at risk of damaging other people’s perception of us and our judgement.
We all know, reputation is hard won and easy lost. Why take the chance risking all the hard work we’ve put in establishing our credibility?
And when we allow someone else to refer us without at least knowing us, of if they can trust us, we risk wasting a lot of people’s time – the person doing the referring, the person being referred, and us.
If they don’t know at least a little bit about what we do, who we serve and how we work, how can they work out if someone is a good fit for our services or not? How can they honestly say to someone that we would be good for them?
Again, it risks damaging our reputation – almost like guilt by association.
What should we do about it?
Admittedly, there’s not much we can do to prevent someone who doesn’t know us well referring us, but there are things we can do to minimize both the risk and the impact.
First and foremost, don’t feel pressured to get involved.
In this case, I didn’t pass my business card. I’m not sure the other person even noticed to be honest. If they insist and want to ‘connect’, suggest a call at a later date to find out more about each other’s business.
Chances are they won’t follow up but if they do, it gives you a chance to fully assess the situation – maybe they were just having an off-day. It happens to us all. Or maybe they weren’t and this is just who and how they are.
It’s then your choice whether you want to get involved with them or not. And at least they’ll be a bit better informed about who you are, what you do and how you support your clients.
Know, Like & Trust
On their own, Know, Like & Trust are nowhere near enough to ensure a good stream of quality referrals (and that’s a whole different blog post!) – but they are an essential starting point.
Referring without them is fraught with danger.
Avoid Referral Roulette
Don’t pounce. Take your time to build a relationship.
Get to know the people you refer. Assure yourself of their quality – are they reliable, do they know what they’re talking about, do other people rate them?
Make sure the people who refer you know what you do, who you serve and how you add value to clients you work with. Show them that you are credible & trustworthy.
The Pounce isn’t a business strategy, it’s more like roulette – and we all know the odds for how likely it is to win at that game.