One of the main competitive advantages of being a co-operative should be Principle 6 of our Values and Principles 'Co-operation between co-operatives'.
Principle Six events were first developed by Sion Whellens of Calverts and Principle Six LLP. It is a methodology and meeting format for face-to-face, high energy, results-oriented business referral networking. They have been run as stand alone events, part of Co-operatives UK conferences and by Regional Co-operative Councils.
The format is adapted from standard referral techniques developed over many years, and it's been shown to work for all kinds, from sole traders to representatives of large multinational companies, by matching 'asks' to 'referrals'. A referral is an introduction (or pledge to make an introduction) by the 'referrer' to a third party who, known to them, is or may be in the market for the products or services provided by the 'asker'.
Principle Six is designed to get the maximum amount and quality of new business for the participants, in the most efficient way, using the 'Givers Gain' principle; if I bring opportunities to you, you will want to bring opportunities to me. It relies on an open, honest and co-operative approach to generating new business, by enabling people to make appropriate and qualified personal introductions to people within their own personal networks.
The format works for groups of between 20 and 40 people, and take between 90 and 115 minutes. Participants are asked to bring plenty of business cards, and the organisers should provide a 'referrals sheet' with the name, business name and, if possible, contact details of every participant, with a space for notes beside each name.
The meeting format has three main phases:
1 .'sixty second pitches' (Slide 2)
Starting with the facilitator, each person in turn stands up and makes a 'pitch' to the whole room, lasting no more than one minute. The facilitator should prompt people to stop at the end of the 60 seconds, whether you've finished or not (A buzzer or other 'aid' may lighten the tone)
The pitch should be in the format:
- My name.
- The name of my business.
- What goods or services my business provides.
- Why people should buy those good or services.
- And, most importantly - What referral I am looking for.
This should be as precise as possible, even naming a specific individual or business (You may be surprised who people know). You may also wish to break the 'Ask' into three.
The 'bread-and-butter' referral is the routine, easily delivered sale or contract that keeps you, or your enterprise, going from day to day.
The 'cream' referral is the kind of thing that turns up once every six months to a year - really great sale or business win.
The 'dream' referral is the one which will transform the prospects for your business, taking it to a new level.
Every participant should be making notes of all the referral requests, because they are going to be asked to respond to these pitches with relevant and specific referrals.
2. A ten minute slot
The ten minute slot is an opportunity for everyone to catch their breath, rest their note-taking hand and listen to a short talk, which can either be an explanation by an experienced facilitator of Principle Six thinking and how to make it work, or an extended pitch from a selected participant – in other words, their 60 seconds expanded to 600 seconds.
3. Referrals and testimonials (Slide 3)
As in the first part of the meeting, each person in turn stands up and tells the room what referrals they are able and prepared to make, in response to the 60 second pitches. They should be brief and to the point, e.g. 'A – I can refer you to person B from company Y, who is looking for Z. I will speak to them first then put the two of you in touch'.
Any participant who is unable to make a referral should simply say so then sit down, unless they are able to give a personal testimonial or recommendation for another participant or their business.
There are clear ethics and rules (slide 4) about how to make referrals, including the obvious ones of a) always making the introductions you've promised to make and b) following up on introductions people have made on your behalf.
Other simple tips:
- Prepare and practice your 60 second pitch in advance.
- Do not forget to tell people what referral you are looking for – even if you don't tell them your name, or what you do.
- Don't ask people in the room to buy from you. Ask people in the room who they know who might be in the market for your products or services.
- Be as specific as possible in your referral request. 'I want to meet the Children's' Services Director of Islington Council' is more likely to get a referral than 'I want to meet people who are involved in commissioning playgrounds'.
- Do not 'over refer'. Make the introductions you can, at the level you are able to make them.
- Make your referrals within 24 hours of promising them.
- Keep everyone's business cards, in case something springs to mind after the session.
The downloadable slides are freely available and can be used to facilitate the session, particularly for people who haven't done anything like this before.
As a network of co-operative businesses we should seek to understand and refer business to other co-operatives we know and trust. But first you need to get to know and trust them! Any member can set-up their own meeting, if you are interested in running an event and want some tips, get in touch with us, or contact your local Regional Co-operative Council who may be interested in helping.
If you do run an event please add it to our events listing.