Have you ever played the game, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”?
Or perhaps you’ve seen the Kevin Bacon Visa Check Card ad from 2002? The concept is simple: We’re all connected … sometimes in the most absurd and unbelievable ways.
Finding those connections is key to lead generation and getting referrals.
“Six Degrees of Separation” is a theory posited by psychologist Stanley Milgram in a 1967 study, for which 296 volunteers from Boston and Nebraska attempted to get a document to a Massachusetts stockbroker using only their acquaintances. Sixty-four of those letters reached their target after going through six connected people.
But in the digital age, we don’t need six people to connect us to Kevin Bacon or anyone else. More recent research shows it now takes fewer than five. A 2011 study by Facebook and the University of Milan, which mined data from the social media site’s 721 million active users, found that the number of intermediate links between two strangers — or “degrees of separation” — is now only 4.74. Researchers summarize: “When considering another person in the world, on average, a friend of your friend knows a friend of their friend.”
This is great news for referral sellers! We’re connected to any decision-maker we want to reach by just a few people.
How to unlock unexpected referral networks
Your clients — current and former — are your best, most logical source of referrals. They know how you work, what your ideal client looks like and how your team adds value.
But while customers make up the top tier of your referral network, there is untapped potential for lead generation in every area of life. Your team is connected to more referral sources than they even realize. Just consider the following connectors:
The affinity connector
Your “affinity network” includes your natural, everyday cultural, geographic and special-interest connections that boost lead generation and increase sales. Think about people you know, with whom you share the same cultural background (or geographic area or country). There is an affinity — a connection — among those with a common custom, perspective or manner.
In the United States alone, the South, the Midwest, and New England each has its own social, business and historical culture. People from these locations often share a certain manner of speech, approach or perspective. What about others who share the same political agenda or passion for travel or sports? You feel an immediate connection to them — a natural liking, inclination or feeling of identification.
The cultural connector
Cultural connections can also be a way to generate new sales leads.
Think of a British salesman working for a company in the U.S. The company has important sales leads in the U.K. Who would this company send to explore the new opportunities? Given the choice, it wouldn’t be someone from Texas, Asia or Latin America. Smart sales execs would send the Brit, because he would more likely be perceived by these prospects as “one of them.” The sales approach, conversation and tempo of new business development would more likely be in keeping with the client’s culture. Familiarity breeds comfort, trust and sales opportunities.