It’s a good idea to start with people you know and trust when forming a business referral network: people whose business you understand and who understand your business. By having a good knowledge of each other and the services that each business provides, especially in the early stages, it can pave the way for a cohesive group and can encourage organic business growth through referrals.
It is preferable to meet face to face when asking people to join your group. A physical meeting allows for free and open conversation and helps to develop a sense of trust for both parties, which is crucial for any referral network.
Developing relationships in business networks is of paramount importance, as people will only want to refer you if you are transparent and open in your dealings and happy to share your business contacts as well.
There is a give and take aspect to any referral group and it is important to be actively helping other group members through referrals. You might think that you don’t have much to offer a person and their business at a particular time, so it is important to persist and to think long term about how you can become a better resource for others. In the mean time, make yourself available and perhaps think of other ways in which you can offer any help. These are important steps to take when thinking about how to develop business relationships.
When starting a group it is a good idea to think about who you already have in your professional network: previous or present clients, classmates, work colleagues, friends and family. Although networking can seem difficult at first, it is quite likely that you already have a number of valuable connections that you can utilize.
Another good starting point is to make a list of the different types of businesses that you could benefit from working with. From this list you can then set yourself goals of meeting people either online or in person who are in these roles.
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If you’re looking for pro tips on how to host and run a business networking meeting, see this article – Example Referral and Networking Meeting Agenda – AndMine