Several of my recent posts have discussed networking. The most recent one, Better Questions Equal Better Networking Results, noted that one of the most effective questions you can ask in networking is “Would you be willing to make a personal introduction?” While this is an important question that CAN produce many great referrals for you, in this post I want to emphasize this key principle from Chapter 12 of my career book Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!): “Quantity without quality can be almost useless.”
This statement is an outgrowth of my earlier years in career coaching, when I would find clients getting lots of referrals but becoming frustrated by the results. My early training in engineering drove me to dig in and find out why, and what I came to realize was that my clients were not getting QUALITY referrals. This motivated me to create a quality scale for networking referrals, which I have used for years and found to be very helpful. Now, whenever a client is getting referrals but their networking is not producing good results, we look carefully at how each ranks on my referral quality scale.
So, what is this mysterious scale? While it is too complex to lay out in complete detail in a short blog post, the following examples provide a short description of what the referrer has done and how they might advise you of their action in making their referral of you to another person. I consider the minimum quality referral you should strive to obtain to be a “7”.
2 – Referrer gave prospect your contact info and asked them to call you. (“Expect a call from Jane.”)
4 – Referrer sends a lukewarm introductory email to prospect, suggests you call them (“I sent Jane a note and told her to expect your call.”)
7 – Referrer is coached by you regarding the strategy for introducing you, makes an introductory call (not email) to the prospect, gives you a strong testimonial, and gets a commitment that they will meet (if local) with you. (“As you suggested, I called Jane. I told her about you and put in a positive word for you. I told her that she would enjoy meeting you and she agreed to meet with you for coffee as a mutual introduction. I recommend you call her today while it is still fresh on her mind. Her number is 678-555-1212 and she is expecting your call.”)
What’s better than a “7”, you ask? The person introduces you in person in a three-way coffee or meeting.
It has been my experience that most referrers, if not coached properly, will tend to give crummy referrals. It’s not that they intend to do this. They just don’t know any better or, in some cases, are lazy. If you think back on the types of introductions you have been provided in the past, I expect you can relate. If so, then your challenge is to start rating your future ones and start reaching for the stars to get a “7” or better.
Knowing what you want and asking specifically for it, with a little coaching thrown in, definitely has the potential to get you more of what you want while reducing your wasted time following up on weak networking referrals. Oh, and by the way. This can also be applied to other business introductions, such as for sales and business development activities.
So, what do you think? Is it possible that crummy referral quality has been holding you back? If so, now you have a new perspective and can most certainly improve.