I joined a close-contact networking group many years ago, which met regularly to pass business referrals to one another.

I was the president of the group at the time and remember inducting a new member, whom we will call “Phillip”.

He attended the meetings regularly and when it came to the part of the meetings where we passed referrals to each other, he would stand each week and say: “Nought to report.”

After six months, Phillip came to me and said: “I’m not going to renew my membership as I’m not getting anything out of these meetings. I’ve got hardly any business from belonging to this group. This just doesn’t work!”

In fact, I have heard similar stories or variations on the same theme over and over. Phillip went on to say:

* This group is fickle, they used me once and never again.”

* I’ve bought something from every single person in this room, but they’ve never bought anything from me.”

* The members just don’t understand my business.”

What Phillip had missed in his membership of our group was that to get a referral, sometimes you have to give a referral.

It’s called the law of reciprocity. In order to receive, you must first give, or you get back what you give out.

Phillip was quick to blame anyone and everyone else in the room, except himself.

If you belong to a networking group and aren’t getting referrals or if you pass referrals to other business people and aren’t getting any in return, whose fault is it?

I would suggest that all you need to do is look in a mirror and you will see the culprit staring straight back at you.

If you are thinking along the same lines as Phillip, then you may want to consider the following:

“This group is fickle, they used me once and never again.”

If you did business with a member or perhaps a new client, did you follow up to make sure he was happy with the goods or services you supplied?

Did you go the extra mile to turn a customer into a regular client? Did you give him a reason to come back again and again to buy from you? Did you make sure the customer saw your best work the first time?

“I’ve bought something from every single person in this room, but they’ve never bought anything from me.”

Often, people join networking groups thinking that it’s only the people in the immediate group that they are going to do business with.

Raise your aim! Research by social scientists confirms that every business person knows at least 250 other business people. Why limit yourself to just doing business with the person in the room?

An astute networker will give outstanding service on the first engagement with a view to cementing a longer-term relationship.

Once trust is established, then you can begin to tap into those other 250 people that each person in your network knows.

If you know 10 other business people and they trust you, suddenly you can access 2,500 people.

All that needs to happen next is for you to ask for a targeted referral to that network.

“The members just don’t understand my business.”

Finally, if the members don’t understand your business, you will never get access to those potential 2,500 contacts.

You must make the effort to educate your network.

Take time to meet with people in your network.

Arrange to meet one on one with the people in your network and take the time to learn about their business.

Then and only then can you teach them about your business.

Top 10 things to teach others

Tell the people in your network about:

* Your products and services;

* Your business hours;

* Your location and whether you are mobile or not;

* How to contact you by phone, e-mail and website;

* Your target market;

* Your ideal referral;

* The kind of business you are looking for;

* The kind of business you aren’t looking for;

* How to speak up and recommend you, give them words or phrases to listen for in everyday conversation; and

* How to set up an appointment with their client to introduce you as a recommended and preferred supplier.

The list goes on and on. The key here is to take time to educate the other people you want to bring you business referrals.