I once worked with a guy (let’s call him ‘Sam’) who went to lunch with anyone and everyone; he attended more one to one meetings with other professional advisers than anyone else I have worked with. His intention was clear BUT the level of his work referrals never seemed to warrant the time and effort he put into his networking activity.

There were probably a number of reasons for his lack of success and some of them may have been specific to Sam.I remember his catch-phrase whenever he went off to meet one of his new contacts:“Well, you never know” he would say.And to an extent Sam was right. What you don’t go for you’re unlikely to get. It’s just that Sam only seemed interested in what he could catch there and then. If his new contacts were not able and willing to refer a client to him immediately he forgot about them and moved onto the next prospective referrer.

This always struck me as a wasted opportunity. If a new professional contact does not immediately refer work to you it is worth reflecting on the reason for this. It’s easiest to do so by putting yourself in their shoes. Are you able to refer work to them immediately? Why should it be a one way street?

Once you have devoted time and effort to a proper discussion after an initial meeting you have a choice:

1 – Treat the time as wasted and move on* (as Sam used to do); or

2 – Consider that discussion as an investment of your time in developing a longer-term relationship that could yield referrals in the future.

My preference is always for the second option – unless I’ve taken a dislike to the person concerned (or vice versa I suppose).This is why I distribute a regular newsletter. It’s to keep my name in the frame and to remind my contacts that I’m a helpful sort of guy.

*In many professional firms the only ongoing communication follows from the new contact’s business card details being added to the marketing database for newsletters and the like. Does anyone ever consider whether or not these are really going to enhance the relationship and lead to new work referrals?