The Steps You Should Take If You Want to Build Business Off Referrals

The Steps You Should Take If You Want to Build Business Off Referrals

So, you want referrals and you want them now? I’m often asked, “How long does it take for people to receive referrals from their network and how do we speed this process up?” Building a referral-based business is all about building a powerful, personal network. From my experience, strong referral relationships are a lot like building close personal friendships. In a study published in 2018 by the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, it was found that it takes about 50 hours of interaction to move from being an acquaintance to becoming a “casual friend.” It takes a total of 90 hours to be become “real friends,” and a total of 200 hours to become “close friends.” According to the study, “friendship status was examined as a function of hours together, shared activities and everyday talk.” So, how long does it take for people to build a close relationship where they trust you enough to give you regular referrals? I know that sounds like a lot but that matches up almost perfectly with what I’ve seen in BNI, a referral marketing organization I founded in 1985. It is about building relationships and friendships with other business professionals. When it comes to getting referrals from your network, confidence is a vital component -- not your confidence, but the confidence your fellow network members have in you. Your success in getting referrals depends partly on your competence, of course, but also on how far up the confidence curve the referrer’s confidence in you has progressed. If you’re at point B in the relationship, you’ve known each other for a while, but you still haven’t quite achieved the necessary confidence level with this person to get a referral from her. Am I meeting regularly with my networking colleagues to learn about their businesses so I can confidently refer my contacts to them?

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Move past the mentality of “wanting referrals and wanting them now” by considering the strength of your relationships.

The Steps You Should Take If You Want to Build Business Off Referrals

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So, you want referrals and you want them now? Well, you can’t have them. Unless, you’ve built meaningful relationships with your referral partners first. I’m often asked, “How long does it take for people to receive referrals from their network and how do we speed this process up?”

Building a referral-based business is all about building a powerful, personal network. If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, you will never get the kind of referrals that will make a difference for your business. This means that you have to go deep in building a number of strong relationships.

From my experience, strong referral relationships are a lot like building close personal friendships. Facebook has redefined what a “friend” is, but I’m talking about truly close friendships with people. In a study published in 2018 by the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, it was found that it takes about 50 hours of interaction to move from being an acquaintance to becoming a “casual friend.” It takes a total of 90 hours to be become “real friends,” and a total of 200 hours to become “close friends.” According to the study, “friendship status was examined as a function of hours together, shared activities and everyday talk.”

So, how long does it take for people to build a close relationship where they trust you enough to give you regular referrals? Well, somewhere between 90 and 200 hours sounds about right to me.

I know that sounds like a lot but that matches up almost perfectly with what I’ve seen in BNI, a referral marketing organization I founded in 1985. When BNI members hit the 90-hour mark of participation they almost always begin receiving more and more referrals. Based on an independent study published in 2012 for BNI, when those same individuals cross the 200-hour mark, they generate an average of over five times the number of referrals they did in their first year! Yes,…

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