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Making, giving, and receiving connections and referrals seems to be on our minds and are a big reason even off-the-charts introverts bother to network. So today I’m sharing a brief sampling of my favorite tips on the subject, specifically from the giving standpoint, since giving first is one of my networking philosophies.  Here goes, excerpted and adapted directly from the pages of Chapter 8 of my book, The Intentional Networker: Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals & Results in Business.

1. Realize that every referral, recommendation, introduction, and connection creates a chain of events.  Make every connection with care. Take the work of connecting seriously. Vow from this moment on to be thoughtful, discerning, and purposeful each time you connect the dots or even make an endorsement or offer a testimonial. Why? In the end your reputation will be affected for better or worse.

2. Slow down your referral reflex. It may sound counterintuitive since business moves at lightning speed. But the first step in making better connections is to slow down. Pause. Think. Ask questions. Review the options. Sleep on it if necessary. You’ll find that most people, particularly the ones who seek stellar results (and who doesn’t?), would rather receive a well-thought-out connection or referral than one made in haste.

3. Develop standards, policies, and criteria for your connecting and referring efforts.  Who do you know that you can refer or introduce to others with absolute confidence? What makes you trust this person and the quality of their work?  Likewise, what commonalities have to be in place between two people in order for you to make a successful introduction?  When you made a really successful match, what made it so? Take notes and make lists on these and similar questions. Turn things around and make notes about matches that weren’t successful. Build on this information and let it guide your connections from today forward.

4. Offer several options and choices when making referrals.  It’s not always possible, but options are good. It can be just two. Options let others shop and compare. It puts people in control. They like that.

5. Add caveats and disclaimers when necessary. Let others know how well (or not) you know the people, businesses, or resources you are referring. If you are very familiar, add notes about what you believe are their strengths and possible limitations.  For example, the person who I see as the best graphic designer in the universe may not be a good fit for you. I have my tastes, needs, perceptions. You will have yours.

6. Consider whether you are qualified to make the connection, referral, or recommendation at all. Before you offer up a connection or referral, be sure you understand what exactly is being requested and make sure you have a solid and appropriate suggestion to offer.  If you don’t, pass rather than jeopardize your reputation and wreak havoc with innocent lives.

7. Resist the urge to refer people just because of proximity.  Just because your neighbor is an executive coach doesn’t mean he or she is the right fit for your friend who is shopping for one. If you actually know the person’s work and reputation, by all means include the person on your short list. But offer up others you know are strong candidates as well. Don’t let proximity rule the referral.

Now it’s your turn: What have your own experiences with offering introductions, connections and referrals taught you? I’m eager to hear it, and I bet other readers are as well.

Need help becoming a more focused, confident, intentional connector and networker? Check out my updated menu of coaching and consulting services.  I now offer a variety of options. And don’t forget to tell your friends and associates that they can sign up to receive a FREE sample chapter from my book. Just visit my website to learn how to sign up.