A vast majority of people network primarily in order to increase their business. While they achieve this (properly) by seeking to be of service to others first, their overarching goal is to bring in more jobs/projects/money. That’s fine. The challenge this presents is that when it comes to referrals, many people assume that the only good referral is one which has a contract as the outcome. That being the case, many end up feeling frustrated that they can’t help their networking partners.

But networking is more than just handing the other person a signed contract. Let’s take a look at some areas which can provide counter-examples to this myth.
  1. Getting the word out. Staying in the realm of business development, you can provide your contact with opportunities to market their business. I’ve had networking friends refer chances to appear on local radio programming, write for our local online newspaper, and speak in front of groups — all of which may lead to work someday, but for now serve to get my name out there. I’m just as appreciative of these opportunities as I would have been if they had sent me a new client.
  2. Personal needs. When we were looking for a coach to help us prepare for the birth of our daughter, Kaylie, friends referred us to a great service. Four months after Kaylie showed up, another friend put us in touch with our nanny, Beth. For those of us with children, you know how grateful we are to anyone who helps us provide a better life for them. For us, that’s as good as money in the bank.
  3. Business needs. Now maybe your networking partner can’t refer business your way, but what if they could put you in touch with someone who could help you arrange financing for your next round of growth? Or someone who could find you new office space to support that growth? Need a new accountant? Would you rather consult the phone book or someone in your trusted network for a recommendation?
These are just a few ideas of referrals that extend beyond the traditional idea of delivering business to your connections. Explore the options. Find out what your network could provide. Heck, go out on a limb and ask them how you can help. Remember, just the act of helping them succeed, no matter what form it takes, is the fundamental “payment” you make in networking. So, help where you can and let them decide what it’s worth.
Photo credit: danjaeger