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Networking Groups: The Benefits of Exclusive Referral Groups

In the February 19, 2019 article, My Life as a Connector, I discussed the fact that referrals are hands down the most effective marketing tool a business can invest in. If one will fully immerse themselves in a culture of learning and excellence, and take advantage of every tool available, there is no room for failure. I always suggest a business person take part in several handpicked networking groups and attend with intention and goals in mind. These groups should include one exclusive, invitation-only referral group, a civic-minded group, a mastermind, a free networking group, and a social group. These five types of groups, if managed properly, will set you up for the best success possible. As with any group of people, there are benefits and challenges to keep in mind. This article will focus on the benefits of exclusive, invitation-only referral groups. The next article will focus on the challenges.

Sometimes these groups are often mislabeled as “networking groups,” however referral groups offer much more than general networking to include industry exclusivity, education, team building, public speaking skills enhancement, masterminding, and internal reporting capabilities.

Image Credit Flickr/Nguyen Hung Vu

The Benefits

1. Industry Exclusivity – The first benefit of membership is industry exclusively. For example, if you are a P&C insurance agent, no other P&C agent can join your group. Look for organizations that offer flexibility in this and who do not require members to break up your industry seat. If you offer an insurance solution that includes a variety of products and services, hold the seat. On the other hand, do not be afraid to bring in another professional who may overlap with you in a few areas as you may find you can work well together.

Photo Credit: MarsDesign, Inc.  Within each of these industries lies the possibility for various categories represented within your chapter.

2. Education – A second benefit is continuing education and training provided during each meeting. You will learn BEST practices and ways to develop your sales presentation that you won’t get from general networking groups.

3. Team Building – When you sit at the table with the same people consistently, you cannot help but become a team that is willing to fight to create referral opportunities for each other. A certain camaraderie comes from having a “home base” to return to over and over throughout the year. You become family. You learn to trust. You develop a reputation for having a great team of people on your side who are interested in servicing your clients well. Pick the right team, and you will develop a stellar reputation in the marketplace. Some organizations require each chapter to have 20 or more members to maintain membership; other organizations allow group autonomy and the ability to form smaller chapters based on their goals and vision.

Photo Credit: OnTrack International

4. Public Speaking Skills Enhancement – Let’s face it. If you have never been comfortable speaking in front of groups, it can be a little intimidating, however, the right referral group will set you up for success and help you develop these skills every time you meet. The better you get at presenting in front of groups of people, the better your sales skills will develop. Look for organizations that help you develop your elevator pitch as it will serve you well as you navigate the other networking opportunities around you.

Photo Credit: CNN

5. Masterminding – Look for groups that allow periodic departures from the regular meeting agenda to offer a mastermind session for members who are not receiving referrals or are experiencing a business challenge. Group success comes when every member is willing to help every person around the table to be successful.

Photo Credit: Score.org

6. Internal Reporting Capabilities – Referral groups will offer some type of internal reporting system within a website or app. Look for systems that allow you to enter referrals, track revenue, track face-to-face meetings, track recruiting goals, attendance, etc. You can only gauge success with up-to-date tracking.

Several successful referral organizations exist around the world and all offer different benefits. Some people prefer highly structured, weekly meetings within large group settings while other people prefer more intimate settings with some autonomy within a more flexible structure. Whichever you choose, be ready to show up, give more than you receive, and learn. Over time, the art of referrals and connecting will become like second nature to you and you will find yourself with a vast network of people you can rely on. Adopting Zig Ziglar’s philosophy of helping as many people get what they want will, in turn, help you get what you want. And you may find you rely less and less on some of the other networking events that tend to consume the time you could be using to continue cultivating the networks you’ve developed through the referral process.

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