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Business Leads Exchange Networking Group Pittsburgh, PA chapter

The ABC’s of Asking for Referrals

There was once a member in a Chapter who sold computer equipment. Just before joining the organization, he had sold dozens of computers to a local school system. Apparently, the state legislature had earmarked a billion dollars for school systems to upgrade their computer equipment and this particular member had come across an opportunity to tap into a small piece of these allocated funds.

After joining, this individual was eager to use the contacts in the organization to identify more school systems that he could sell upgraded computers. As these opportunities represented major transactions for him, each week he focused his infomercials on seeking contacts and inroads into local school systems.

Although articulately said, nothing came from his requests. The problem was that no one had legitimate contacts into school systems (partially because most Chapter members did not have school-aged children). After a year of trying, the member stood at the Chapter meeting when it was his time to speak and proceeded to resign his membership, stating that he had just not gotten any referrals.

Five Things You Learned about Networking
from Your Mother

By Michelle R. Donovan, The Referability Expert

Mothers are a beautiful thing. They care for us, nurture us, and teach us the dos and don’ts of life. I’ve learned a lot from my mother. Especially when she taught me all about life, love . . . and networking! I’m sure she didn’t realize she was teaching me about networking at the time. But she was. And I bet your mom taught you about networking as well. Perhaps the words of my mom will sound familiar to you.

1.“Share your toys.”

I can’t remember how many times my mom told me to share! She felt it was important that we knew how to give to others. Growing up in a large family, I had to share almost everything. Sharing is good to learn when you’re young, because it’s a skill that makes us approachable.

Networking wouldn’t be networking if we didn’t share. We build stronger relationships with people when we’re willing to share our resources. Some of our best resources include time, money, connections, information, knowledge, and skills. People appreciate us when we’re willing to give to the relationship. Giving people are approachable and reap the benefits of reciprocity.

2.“Walk, don’t run!”

I used to hear this phrase no matter where we were: the house, grocery store, mall, church, or school! As a kid, I was always in a hurry to get to the next exciting thing. There always seemed to be someplace more interesting than where I was at the time. My attention was short, and my mom wanted me to learn patience.

Patience is a virtue when it comes to networking. A fast-paced networker misses the true essence of the event and can very easily blow right past a tremendous opportunity. Fast-paced networkers tend to build shallow relationships that offer little or nothing of value to their business. On the other hand, patient networkers build deep, long-lasting relationships that lead to the growth of their business. Establishing a network that has depth far exceeds one that is shallow.

3.“You have to work for it!”

Nothing in life worth having comes easy; you have to work for it! My parents taught me this lesson by example. Both of my parents worked hard for what they accomplished and gave to their five children. They were determined to provide a wonderful life for their family--and they did. Today, in their retirement, they are reaping the benefits of their labor.

Networking is no different. That’s why it’s called, net-WORK! It’s not net-SIT or net-EAT! Building relationships takes not only time, but effort and energy. It also takes commitment and dedication to the process. Some people put their faith in the six degrees of separation theory, which tells them that they’re connected to anyone by only six degrees. In fact, this theory is flawed. This study actually shows that only 29% of the population is indeed separated by six degrees! So, for the majority of us, we’ve got to work hard to get into the 29%, and work hard to just stay there. The reward for accomplishing this task is great, beyond what we can even imagine. Our mothers had foresight, didn’t they?

4.“Say thank you.”

Not long after we began to speak my mom was making sure that we knew how to say thank you! As most kids do, I wanted to know why it was important to say thank you. Being a fast paced kid, there seemed to be no time for thank-yous. In true mom form, my mother would reply, “It’s the right thing to do.” Before I knew it, saying thank you became second nature--and it felt right. too. Now it’s part of who I am and how I operate.

Saying thank you to those who have helped you in some way shows your gratitude, expresses your appreciation, and solidifies the steps made towards further developing the relationship. It seems as though these two little words don’t pack much of a punch these days. I can assure you handwriting a note of thanks to a referral partner will enhance the possibility of future referrals.

5.“Clean up after yourself”

What does cleaning up after yourself have to do with networking? As kids, there was always one last thing to do when we played with our toys: Put them away. That was our quiet lesson in follow-up. We followed-up every play time with a consistent behavior of cleaning up after ourselves. Today, as adults, one huge component of networking is follow-up and, more importantly, our ability to do it consistently. Meeting people and building relationships mean very little if we never bother to follow-up with them. Making promises to help someone without efficient follow-up is vain. This homegrown lesson in follow-up might be the most important networking lesson of all.

These five lessons grounded me as a person and helped me develop into a successful professional. I can still hear my mom saying, “Some day you’ll thank me!” So, Mom, thanks for teaching me lessons that would one day help me to be an effective networker!

Perhaps it’s time you thanked your mom, too.

Michelle R. Donovan, The Referability Expert and owner of Referral Institute in Sewickley, PA. She is the co-author of the new best selling book, “The 29% Solution: 52 Weekly Networking Success Strategies”. Michelle teaches and coaches business owners and service providers how to develop a consistent stream of referrals. She can be reached at 412-741-1926 or by email Visit her website at or her blog at

51 Thoughts on Networking

  1. The Federal Bureau of Labor did a study a few years back indicating that 70% of all new business comes from some form of networking. I think it’s higher.
  2. So, no matter where you go – the Mall, church, out to dinner, the gym – you better have at least five business cards with you.
  3. And be able to give an UNFORGETTABLE personal introduction in 10 seconds, 30 seconds and 6o seconds.
  4. When someone on the phone says, “May I ask who’s calling?” get excited. Say something unique that makes that person say, “Um, okay…please hold.” Be unexpected. Be cool. Be memorable.
  5. Get Google alerts on yourself, your company, your area of expertise and your competition. If you don’t know what a Google alert is, just Google it.
  6. Networking isn’t selling, marketing or cold calling. It’s the development and maintenance of mutually valuable relationships. Don’t mix those things up.
  7. The most important four letters in the word NETWORKING are W-O-R-K, because that’s exactly what it takes.
  8. If you give your business card to somebody and they don’t reply, “Hey, cool card!” get a new card. (Thank you, Jeffrey Gitomer.)
  9. When attending networking events, come early. Check out the nametags. See if you know anybody, or find people you’d like to meet.
  10. 1Sit in the back so you can scan the room for specific people you’d like to connect with.
  11. 1Email articles of iinterester cool stuff OF VALUE (not spam) to people you’ve met.
  12. Publish a newsletter ezine. Interview people from your network and feature them as experts. They will take ownership of their inclusion and spread that publication to everyone they know.
  13. Spend an hour a week reading and commenting on other people’s blogs. If you don’t know what a blog is, you’re in trouble.
  14. When you read an article you like, email the author. Tell him what you liked about it and introduce yourself. He'll usually write back.
  15. Have an awesome email signature that gives people a reason to click over to your website. Just be careful not to have TOO much information included.
  16. Get involved with social networking sites like LinkdIn, MySpace and Squidoo.
  17. Remember that networking doesn’t have to be in person. The Internet is a great place to connect with people just like you! It’s called Internetworking. (Yep, I made that word up.)
  18. Make your own words up. It’s really fun.
  19. Have business lunches at least once a week.
  20. Attend local events once a month.
  21. Figure out where your target market hangs out (online and offline). Then hang out there.
  22. Or, create your own regular “business hangout,” like a copy or coffee shop where you can regularly be found working, networking, reading or connecting with other professionals.
  23. Talk to everybody. Don’t sell them; don’t probe them, just make friends. Make friends with everybody. Because people buy people first.
  24. Take volunteer positions with organizations that are relevant to your industry. Be a visible leader to whom others can come for help.
  25. Every time you meet someone, write the letters HICH on their business card: how I can help. Then think of five ways to do so.
  26. Go to Borders and spend one day a month reading books on networking, interpersonal communication and marketing. I highly recommend The Power of Approachability and How to be That Guy. (I hear the author is super cool.)
  27. Publish articles or a blog or both based around your expertise. Use titles such as “Top Ten Ways,” “Essential Elements” and “Success Secrets,” that grab the reader’s attention. Publish them on and
  28. Be funny, but don’t tell jokes.
  29. Discover the CPI, or Common Point of Interest with everyone you meet.
  30. Carry blank business cards with you in case someone forgot theirs. They’ll thank you for saving their butt!
  31. Never leave the house without a pen and paper. Sounds dumb, right? It isn’t. It’s genius. Nobody keeps napkins with scribblings on them.
  32. Every week, introduce two people you know who need to know each other.
  33. Wear your nametag above your breastbone and make sure it’s visible from 10 feet away. Nobody cares what side of your chest it’s on. Just make it big. And if you don’t like wearing nametags, then you probably don’t like people knowing who you are, either.
  34. Oh, and it’s not who you know – it’s who knows you. (Thanks again, Jeffrey Gitomer.)
  35. And people will like you the minute they figure out how much they ARE like you.
  36. Fear not to entertain strangers for by so doing some may have entertained angels unaware. (Hebrews, 13:2)
  37. If you don’t have, get it. It’s ten bucks.
  38. Find local professionals with whom you share common interests, customers, ideas and products. Introduce yourself to them, get together, share ideas and find ways to help each other.
  39. Form a mastermind group. No more than four people. Meet regularly to set goals, keep each other accountable and brainstorm.
  40. Also, set your own networking goals each month for:
    • Events to attend
    • People to meet
    • Emails to write
    • Calls to make
    • Articles/physical mail to send
  41. Go onto Google and type in “articles on networking.” Read on!
  42. Speaking of Google, Google yourself regularly. Find out what people are saying about you. If you don’t show up, you’re in trouble.
  43. If you think you don’t need to network, you right. You don’t need to network: you MUST network!
  44. And stop calling it networking. Ignore the title of this post. I only used that word in the title because my client made me. Networking – as a word – is tired and old and cliché and it makes people think you’re throwing around a bunch of cards trying to sell, sell, sell. No. All you’re doing is making friends. Not schmoozing, mingling or any of those stupid catch phrases. You’re making friends. That’s it. Friends. Make them every day.
  45. If you think you suck at networking, don’t worry. You’re not alone. But also remember that anyone can develop their networking skills. That’s right, skills. Because it’s not something you’re born with or just plain “good at.” Anyone can do it effectively. You simply need:
  46. So, when strangers ask, “How are you?” don’t say fine. You’re not fine. Nobody’s fine. Give a real answer that’s memorable and magnetic. I suggest, “Business is kicking ass!” or “Everything is beautiful!”
  47. Come to every networking event with three great questions ready to go. Be sure they begin with, “What’s the one thing?” “What’s your favorite?” and “What was the best part about?”
  48. When someone asks where you’re from, don’t just say “Austin.” Use the H.O.T technique: “Oh, I’m from Austin, home of the best college football team in the country.” Get creative. Get unique. Watch what happens.
  49. Put your person before your profession. Your personality before your position. Your individual before your industry.
  50. Don’t be different – be unique. Don’t be friendly – be approachable. And don’t be memorable – be unforgettable.
  51. Think about the last five “luckiest” business contacts you encountered. Figure out what you did right, realize that there IS NO SUCH THING AS LUCK, then repeat as often as possible.
© 2006 All Rights Reserved.

Scott Ginsberg, aka "The Nametag Guy," is the author of three books and a professional speaker who helps people maximize approachability, become unforgettable and make a name for themselves. To book Scott for your next association meeting, conference or corporate event, contact Front Porch Productions at 314/256-1800 or email