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How to move from “online” connections to “offline” referrals?

Here are some ideas to open new relationships and deepen relationships with your networking partners- by Bryan Daly


Once I make a new connection then I simply pick up the phone and call them.

I recommend just a simple, “Hello, we recently connected and I just wanted to introduce myself and find out about you.”

The key here is to make it about them, not about you.

Ask them good questions about their business and when possible find some common ground.  You can find common ground in mutual connections, work history, favorite activities, etc.  (see also: “How to Break the Ice” )

If it looks like you may have a good “fit” for a possible referral partner then:

Arrange a one-to-one meeting.

Just an FYI here, I have always found coffee to be very non-threatening. Meeting a potential referral source in person is an excellent opportunity to learn more about their business and about them as a person. Have some questions in advance so that the conversation flows smoothly. Be ready to give a “ very brief” update on your business and your interests.

After a one on one meeting, my wheels start turning:  “How can I help this person?”.  “Who can I connect them with?”  “Who might I refer to them?”.  “Can I use the product/service they offer?”  Using the new connections product/service gives me a great basis for making future recommendations.

Assuming you both still have an interest in creating a strategic referral partnership then:

Extend an invitation.

Invite a referral source to a networking event. Introducing her to other business people you know gives your source an opportunity to meet others in your target market and may provide new business opportunities.

As the relationship deepens, you might want to:

Set up an activity.

A recreational activity, such as a golf outing, fishing trip, concert or play, is a great opportunity to let your referral source see a different side of you in an informal setting. The activity should be one that will give everybody time to relax, but it may also include an element of information such as a speech or educational presentation.  I have also invited folks to join in a group “Happy Hour”.  Happy hour is a great way to find out more about the person.

Arrange a group activity for clients.

Gathering your clients together creates an excellent environment for synergy and for raising your credibility with all. The one thing the people in this group will definitely have in common is you, so you’ll certainly be the focus of a good many conversations. Group activities may be social, such as a barbecue or a ball game, or they may be educational, such as a seminar or demonstration.

Nominate a referral source.

Watch for opportunities to nominate a referral source for an award.  Local service and civic organizations often present annual awards recognizing contributions to a particular cause, and local periodicals often sponsor awards contests for businesspeople. Find out what groups and interests your referral source is involved in, and check to see if there is any form of recognition associated with them.

Include a source in your newsletter.

Even a brief mention of a referral source in your newsletter can pay dividends down the road, including the opportunity for your source to reciprocate with his newsletter.

Arrange a speaking engagement.

Help your referral source get in front of a group that would be interested in her business or area of expertise. Local chapters of service organizations, such as Rotary and Kiwanis, are always looking for good speakers. If you belong to a group that invites people to speak, use your contacts to help your source make the rounds among various chapters.