Referrals are the lifeblood of any small business. The type of goodwill and credibility that comes from having your business recommended to a potential customer by a trusted friend or associate simply cannot be bought. In vouching for your business, your client has done much of the hard work for you. Your credibility and reputation have already been established, so closing a deal is bound to be much easier.
Not only do referrals make for easier sales, but they also account for a substantial percentage of new business. As much as three-quarters of your new clients are likely to come to you based on recommendations from your existing network. So, for small-business owners looking to expand their clientele and increase their revenue, networking should be made a top priority.
How can small-business owners on a tight schedule make networking work for them?
You never know when you might meet a potential client. Social gatherings, restaurants, grocery stores, fitness clubs, and coffee houses can all be great places to network. Talk to some strangers. Striking up conversations with people you are unacquainted with should be easy if you are the social type.
If you happen to be shy, it’s great practice. Conversations between acquaintances often turn to the topic of work, and that is a great opportunity to get people excited about who you are and what you do.
Focus on the Long Game
Successful networking takes time. Solid personal and business relationships do not happen overnight. Reach out to those whose business you would like to have, and those who might be in a position to help your business grow at least four times per year. Invite them to an event, share something entertaining, or refer them to a resource you think they might find useful.
The point is not to beg for business, but to keep your business on their radar. That way, when they need what you have to offer, your number will be the one they call.
Get Out There
There are plenty of networking organizations out there, and they exist for just about every type of business there is. It’s a good idea to get involved with industry groups specifically for your industry, as you and your business peers may have things to teach each other. But your competitors are unlikely to become your clients, and just as unlikely to send referrals to you that they could use themselves.
That’s why it behooves small-business owners to network outside their peer-groups. By seeking out networking opportunities where your potential clients are likely to be, you will have a much better chance of gaining new business and expanding your network.