Making connections between people is the lynchpin of networking and one of the best ways to help your target market. It’s something almost anyone can do easily and quickly, it requires a fairly small amount of time and can be incredibly helpful. That’s when it’s done the right way.
Done the wrong way, making connections becomes a liability that can do serious harm to your relationships, reputation and results. It’s one of the most misunderstood and abused aspects of helpeting, so we’re going to spend some time breaking it down.
Connections have to be helpful for everyone involved. It’s not about numbers, it’s about quality. Though making connections can be a time-effective way of serving people, doing it right requires significant investment from you. Take the time to think through the connections you make and resist the urge to connect random people on a whim or because you figure they’ll get along. This alone will go a long way toward increasing the quality of your connections. Your goal should be that when you offer someone a connection, they drop everything and follow up on it. They’ll do this when you’ve built a reputation for making strategic referrals. Even if you don’t hit that every time, making it your goal will take care of a lot of the pitfalls of connecting people. The opposite would be building a reputation that causes people to trash your referrals, which certainly happens with bad introductions. People connect you in their mind with the people you introduce them to. So when you introduce someone to the guy who didn’t even show up for the appointment, had nothing in common with them, talked about himself the whole time or tried to get them to buy into some MLM program, your name takes the hit. It’s hard to recover once you’ve got a reputation for giving bad referrals. There are some practical steps you can take to keep from making bad referrals.
Avoiding Bad Referrals
One thing I’m careful to do is make sure both parties want an introduction before I make it. When I’m connecting people on two sides of a sales transaction, like someone looking for a home and a real estate agent, I ask the customer side if they’d like me to introduce them. The more busy and influential the customer, the more vital it is to ask this question. If they’re at the top of their career and running a large operation they’re likely to be hit up constantly, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to meet people who can help them out. A quick email is all it takes. I describe the person I’d like to introduce them to, pitching them as well as I can, and ask if an introduction would be helpful at this time. If they say no but maybe later, I make a note to check in with them later, at a time they’ve said would be more helpful.
Usually when dealing with a supplier/customer intro, you can assume that the person on the supplier side is going to be happy to meet with the customer. If you know what kind of customers that person is looking for, this is an even safer assumption. Even still, it’s a nice gesture to give the supplier a profile of the customer and ask if it would be a good fit. Be honest with them. Does the customer have any downsides? Have you heard they’re a little slow paying their bills? If so, let your supplier contact know this and decide for themselves if they want to pursue the relationship. They usually will, and they’ll think highly of you for considering them to the point that you’re helping them vet great customers. Again, it’s not about quantity. It’s about quality. I would rather have a single great introduction per year than a hundred bad ones. In fact, if anyone gave me hundred bad introductions I would beg them to stop. So carefully consider your introductions, then confidently make your move.