Let’s face it, networking is about you. And yet, that’s the problem. Every day millions of business seekers walk into networking events with one thing in mind: themselves. Don’t feel guilty; it’s totally natural. It’s also counterproductive. While you shouldn’t apologise for being a product of your baser (and selfish) instincts, you need to be aware of them when networking for new business. So, are you destined to be a self-centered, one-way, “What’s in it for me” sponge? No! Here is some advice on how to manage it: Be self-aware, then selfless, then selfish.

Be self-aware

Never walk into an event or enter into a business relationship without knowing what you want from it. Does that sound cold and impersonal? It’s not. It’s smart because you need a plan. Although most people think this way, not all will. Admit it, this is something you need to know before leaving the office. You really need to think about and fully understand what your specific target market actually is. Does the person you’re speaking to represent your target market or at least have the ability to connect you with those people?

Be selfless

This is what our dear parents taught us growing up. Now that you’ve determined what it will take to grow your business, it’s time to motivate your potential referral source to think of you when they hear of someone with a need for your products and services. The only way this will happen is if you absolutely lose yourself in your new friend. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who hung on every word you said while making spectacular eye contact? Then every time you met them later, they did it again?

Be selfish

Some of you were probably getting a little anxious, but now you can relax and be a little selfish. Have you ever given a lot of business to someone and received nothing in return? Now, if it’s your parent or a close personal friend, you can forgive that transgression. For all others, you’ve earned the right to have the favor returned. So, if you know what you want from that relationship and you’ve made a lot of deposits into it, examine the reasons why they’re not reciprocating. Perhaps you haven’t taken the time to properly educate them. Do they understand what kind of referrals you’d like, of what quality, how many, and how you’d like to be introduced? You’ve earned the right, but not given them the knowledge required to help you. You’ve not trained your referral partner and that my friend is all your fault. So, arrange a time to meet with them and arm them with the information they need to start sending business your way.

There is a rhythm and a science to the relationship process. Ask yourself the question, “Does my business rely on referrals?” If the answer is yes, then understand that referrals come from people. Referral marketing is unlike any other form of lead generation in that you are 100% reliant on other people to be successful. So why put forth the effort? The answer lies in a survey conducted by the US Chamber of Commerce a number of years ago. Nationwide, business owners responded that while only 2% of cold calls closed, 75%-85% of referrals resulted in closed business. That makes them worth pursuing, having a system to go after them, and learning how to motivate people to give them to you. Cultivating referrals takes time, patience, and a commitment to the process. Are you willing to make that investment? Are you willing to be self-aware, be selfless, and then be selfish? Allow me to share a secret: the middle is definitely the hardest part!

By Dr. Ivan Misner

Called the “father of modern networking” by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. He is the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI (www.bni.com), the world’s largest business networking organisation. His new book, Avoiding the Networking Disconnect can be viewed at Amazon.com. Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute, an international referral training company (www.referralinstitute.com).