It may really sound weird, but do you ever network with your competition? I mean set up a face to face meeting with someone in your industry to discuss common synergies to help each other grow your businesses? Do you still believe in an “Us against Them” environment? Or do you recognize not every business can be great at every aspect of a product or service and it may make sense to hand some things off to a business better focused on a few things you do not do so well? There are countless examples of large companies that try to do so much, they basically stink at customer service. Do your clients think you stink because you try to do too much? Let’s consider some facts.
The first fact is your direct competitors could be your best referral source. They are working with clients and prospects in the market for your product or service already. Not indirectly but directly ready to purchase. If you worked a deal with a competitor selling some but not all of your products or services and they stated to the client, “we do this and that, but we will have ‘XYZ, your company’, to do this part,” your competition just sold your business. That is the second fact. It would be easy for you to reciprocate and refer your clients back to them in the same fashion. A prospect being referred by a competitor would not question the company’s integrity. They just assume they use the best and your company is the best. This works vice versa for them as well. Now your two businesses are helping each other not only be better at what you specialize in, but by forming this alliance, the rest of your competition will have trouble competing.
For example, this week, I had a meeting with a financial planner that specializes in setting up 401k retirement plans for small businesses. I am a life insurance and annuity broker that sets up alternative retirement plans for small businesses. We truly view each other as direct competition. But we both decided may be there is a way to work together since we call on the same businesses, so we set up a meeting. After an hour and a half meeting we figured out that we could help each other in so many profitable ways, it could literally end up being one of my best networking partnerships. I could not have accomplished this relationship without taking a risk and meeting with him face to face to see if it would be possible to work together. My risk was only 90 minutes of time. Had things not worked out, it only cost me 90 minutes of my time, but if and when this pans out, I stand to make thousands for 90 minutes of my time.
Sometimes we spend our time networking with business people that can indirectly help our business and we are afraid to meet with our direct competition. Not all of our competitors have others best interest at heart, but a short meeting will bring that out very quickly. Do some networking and I promise you will find the right referral partner to help you grow your business. Remember, the key to “networking” is “working”.
“First, you have to be visible in the community. You have to get out there and connect with people. It’s not called net-sitting or net-eating. It’s called networking. You have to work at it.”—Dr. Ivan Misner
Image by Stuart Miles images at www.freedigitalphotos.net
Tim Wilhoit is owner/principal of Your Friend 4 Life Insurance Agency in Nashville, TN. He is a family man, father of 3, entrepreneur, insurance agent, life insurance broker, salesman, sales trainer, recruiter, public speaker, blogger, author and team leader with over 28 years of experience in sales and marketing in the insurance and beverage industries.