“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is a common phrase used by well-meaning business people. Even though it’s an old saying, it still has more than a grain of truth in it.
I remember that it was usually said with a bit of sarcasm and a reference to “the old school tie network,” which was another constant in business at the time.
The implication was then that no matter how good you were at what you did, you probably wouldn’t get into whatever business you were interested in unless you were male and wore a tie that showed you were part of a certain tribe. Or they played golf and had long lunches with drinks.
Have things changed, or not? In the world of big business, maybe not. We, on the other hand, are in the middle of a boom of small, nimble businesses, and we do things differently.
At a recent “deep” dinner on Conscious Marketing held by Carolyn Tate, we talked about the language of business and what we would like to change to make business conversations more meaningful. Referrals to connections was one of the things that changed.
Referrals, paying it forward, or ties
If reciprocity was a big change in business referrals, I think there’s been a second shock since then that’s pushing entrepreneurs even further away from the “give and you’ll get back” school of business referral.
After all, reciprocity still sounds too much like “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” This is similar to the old school tie network, except that you didn’t have to go to an elite school to play in that field.
When you think about connections instead of referrals or trades, the way you find new business changes. Here, a paradigm shift takes place.
Important food, flexibility, and strength
A relationship, link, or bond is what makes a real connection. It’s not as important for business as referrals are. It’s more about making connections with people who also own businesses. Much more to do with how people treat each other and how much they want to help.
Here’s a question for you. If you weren’t in business, would you bother to send anyone to anyone? I’d say that to have a spirit of connection, you have to connect people whether or not you’re in business or getting something in return. If you don’t do that, you haven’t yet understood the idea of connection.
High-quality connections are like healthy blood vessels that connect parts of our bodies. They keep us alive. When two people have a good connection, they can share vital nutrients and stay flexible and strong. (The Power of Strong Relationships, (By Jane E. Dutton and Emily D.
There’s a new way to look at the power of connections: as a way to get vital nutrients, to be flexible and strong. So how does that compare to a referral? What does that really mean for you in terms of getting new business through referrals?
When you think of referrals as connections instead of leads, you start a different chain of events. You pay close attention to what people say and get excited when you realize that they would be a great match for someone else you know.
It’s fun to write an email to say hello. You have to explain what the other person does and do a good job of describing what the person you’ve met does.
You should do this in a way that makes it clear to both people right away that a connection between them could be good for both of them.
It’s very satisfying when a meeting like this leads to a successful business deal between the two people. Even just hearing that they had a great cup of coffee together makes you feel good.
I recently put an artist in touch with an interior designer. They got to know each other over lunch and a trip to an art gallery. They also want to hang out with their partners. Is it likely that it will lead to business for both of them? Maybe, but not in the same way. The artist gives the interior designer’s clients a certain cachet, and the interior designer may be able to get the artist a commission or more. They liked each other regardless of anything else.
Well, if you mean would this and the dozens of other introductions I’ve made this year help me make more money, then yes. No, not really. But, like the matchmakers of old, I’m seen as a trustworthy person in my business community, and people are grateful for my attention to their business. What is clear, though, is that my relationships with business colleagues have changed in a small way.
Changing the core of your business
I’ve given myself permission to care about how well my coworkers do. I keep an eye out for ways I can help them. It’s almost like it’s in my genes now. I no longer worry about how much time it will take or how much it will pay off. My phone rings more, my inbox is fuller, and more people comment on my book, connect with me, and ask to meet with me. Can I really connect this to my job as a matchmaker? Absolutely. It’s a matter of speed.
If I think back on how I met each of my current clients, it was because I connected with either the client or someone who knew them well. Sharing something with them, putting them in touch with someone else, sending them an interesting blog post or my book, talking about what they do in a way that other people are genuinely interested in, and being a part of their success are all ways to help them.
It’s a great way to run a company. And maybe it is just a little bit different from what our older teachers told us. “It’s not about what you know, but who you spend time getting to know.
This post was part of our monthly World Carnival event, which is a lot of fun. This month, “The Ins and Outs, Ups and Downs of Business Referrals” is the topic.