If, while you're reading this blog, one of your friends, family or business associates found themselves face to face with someone you would want to meet, would they know? Would they think of you, recognise the connection, understand why and know what to say?
If not, how many oppoprtunities for powerful introductions are you missing every year?
The ability to educate our network about the people we want to meet and to enable them to both recognise the connections and make the introduction is key to a successful referrals strategy. It is an ability that many people lack, mainly because we are either too wary of asking for help or because we ask for too much.
It's an old cliche but often less really is more. When I worked with members of networking groups on putting together an effective sixty second presentation asking for referrals, the most common mistake was cramming in too much information.
People were worried about missing out by failing to mention key information. Yet we live in an information age, where we are bombarded with things we have to remember. And that means we have to be much more selective about the information we take on board and retain. The more you give me to remember, the more I have to forget.
Discussing the six modern alternatives to the outdated 'elevator pitch' in his excellent book 'To Sell is Human', Daniel Pink discusses the one-word pitch. The idea is based on a 'one-word equity' concept developed by advertising legend Maurice Saatchi. According to Pink, Saatchi "argues that a world populated with 'digital natives' has intensified the battle for attention in ways no one has fully comprehended. Attention spans aren't merely shrinking, they're disappearing. And the only way to be heard is to push brevity to its breaking point."
Pink then quotes Saatchi, "In this model, companies compete for global ownership of one word in the public mind. When anybody thinks of you, they utter that word. When anybody utters that word, they think of you."
In his book, Pink illustrates the point by asking which technology company you think of when you hear the word 'search' or which credit card company springs to mind when you hear the word 'priceless'.
The same approach can be taken with stimulating referrals. What are the key words, the hooks, that will make your network think of you when they hear them?
I was mentoring a firm of financial advisors on their referrals strategy today. One of them mentioned that they had received a referral to someone who was changing their job. On hearing that description I immediately pictured someone in my close network who is in the same position. Yet I hadn't thought of his needs for a financial advisor before.
It may not always be one word but you need to give your network clear signposts to who you want to meet to enable them to refer you with ease. "Anyone with money to invest" simply doesn't work for financial advisors in the same way that "people changing jobs" will.
Often you need laser-like focus. The advisor who mentioned people changing jobs explained that one of his Champions is a matrimonial solicitor. There would be no point in telling that solicitor he'd like to meet anyone getting divorced, unless the lawyer is prepared to spend a large chunk of his time referring him. Instead he needs to identify a sub-set of people getting divorced who would be most valuable for him to meet and ensure the solicitor thinks of him when meeting those people.
You can adapt your hooks to the network and knowledge of the Champions you are equipping to refer you. But in an age in which we have to contend with a barrage of information, keep your message clear, focused and concise and create it to ensure people consistently recognise opportunities for you when you're not there.