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If you’ve been on the networking circuit awhile you’ve probably heard this adage a hundred times:  “People do business with people they like.”  I’m wondering how this statement ever made it past the first draft stage. It’s certainly catchy and easy to remember. But there are some vital pieces missing. After all, is liking someone really enough to make me want to do business with (or refer) them?

I don’t know about you, but I know and like a lot of people.  Hundreds, maybe thousands of them. I could do business with or refer any of them, but the truth is I probably won’t. I don’t have eternally deep pockets and I just don’t need 10 or 12 of every service or product out there.  I have to make choices.  Additionally, I’m in the business of making referrals, so mine have to be top-notch. I’m going to be very picky about who I bet my business and reputation on.

I admit that likability is important. I do enjoy doing business with people I like.  And I refuse to do business with jerks. But in some cases, how much I like someone isn’t as important as their talent, skill, experience, or even trustworthiness. (E.g. Would you rather like your attorney? Or trust that he or she will keep you out of legal trouble without taking you to the cleaners?)

Ditto when it comes to making referrals.  Would I really risk my reputation referring one colleague to another purely because of likability? No way. That could be disastrous!

Considering all this, here’s my attempt at rewriting the catchy networking statement I mentioned earlier. See what you think:

“People refer and do business with people they like, trust, and know will do a great job.”

Okay, so that may not be poetry to your ears, and you may forget it seconds after you read it, but it’s a start.

What about you? Is likability enough?  Or not? How would you express your standards when it comes to deciding who you’ll refer or do business with?


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