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Why it Matters to Know, Like, Trust and then Refer

Why it Matters to Know, Like, Trust and then Refer

When networking with others in order to both refer business to someone you don’t know well and in reverse, to earn a referral from the other person who you may not know well, both parties are often likely to follow the “Know, Like, Trust” formula in order to be successful. Let’s look briefly at each of these steps:

Step 1 – The Know factor: This involves working hard to understand the person with whom you would like to do business in the future (either directly or as a collaboration partner) and allowing them to get to know you. This might include sharing some background facts on who you/they are, where you’ve/ they’ve come from, what professional background do you/they have, what your/their interests may be on a professional and personal level and even what organizations or groups do you/they belong, professional or even socially. The whole process (which has to be unfolded as slowly as necessary) helps to identify some common ground or a basis for a relationship to be built over time. Don’t forget this is the solid foundation upon which everything else is built so it cannot be rushed or “short-changed”.

Step 2 – The Like factor: This involves being positively minded, open, giving-oriented or helpful to other people as much as you are able in order for them to find you likeable (at least in general terms). Of course, it is natural for some people to not have strong views about you at all, whatever you may do, but the minimum approach here is not to give any other individual a reason to dislike you. However, in many circumstances, showing a warm and giving attitude will allow more individuals to appreciate your way of doing business and your overall “likability” will increase in their eyes. This phase may not take as long as the “know” factor but again it should not be forced or pushed too quickly. 

Step 3 – The Trust factor: In practice, this may take by far the longest to develop (although the more that the “know” and “like” factors have been well-established the shorter this is) but it is important to remember that and there are two kinds of trust-building going on here:

  1. A trust that a person is expert or knowledgeable in his or her field (e.g. you are really good at what you say you are good at in practice)
  2. A trust that a person will behave in a “worthy” way when asked to do something (e.g. you follow through and take care of things well and professionally when asked). 

Both of these are built on the foundation of progressively knowing and liking a person but trust tends to deepen when two individuals start to collaborate (usually in minor ways) and thereby understand how each person follows-through and how seriously each person treats the collaboration or task to which they have been asked to contribute. 

If “know”, “like” and “trust” are necessary to establish and progressively in this order, let’s look at what any individual can do to be more effective in each of these phases. So in general terms, let’s suggest a few ideas on how an individual can become better known? In this regard, he/she can:

  1. Get clear on who he/she should be talking to.
  2. Regularly publicize his/her expertise in his/her area or niche.
  3. Expand his/her network on a targeted basis so that more relevant people can get to know him/her.
  4. Build relationships with key influencers by email, phone and, even better, face-to-face.
  5. Write a blog which showcases expertise and perspective.
  6. Interview experts in his/her field (and publicize the outcomes) thereby indirectly signaling that he/she is a credible peer influencer alongside the experts being highlighted.
  7. Use webinars, product reviews, podcasts, infographics, white papers, e-books, and videos that might appeal to a particular audience 

So, in general terms, how does an individual become more likeable? In this regard, he/she can:

  1. Be as real and authentic as possible; express him/herself in his/her own voice through all of his/her communication and content dissemination.
  2. Aim to be as helpful, responsive, and generous with his/her time and attention as possible.
  3. Create room for feedback and interactivity (through easy access phone numbers, comments on blog posts he/she puts up, email addresses, and getting back to people quickly etc.).
  4. Listen well and ask more questions to help discover a target audience’s main issues and challenges.
  5. Increase visibility through audio and video on his/her web site to both hear and see him/her when he/she can’t meet another person or client in person.
  6. Get his/her clear and friendly looking professional picture up on his/her web site and all other social media platforms and directories on which he/she is listed.
  7. Applaud and promote the efforts and achievements of other people in his/her field. 

And finally, in general terms, how does an individual become more trusted? In this regard, he/she can:

  1. Tell people the truth at all times even when it does not serve him/her to do so. Such honesty and directness always pays off in the long term in people’s mind.
  2. Give away or donate some useful content or advice that he/she knows that target clients will value.
  3. Aim to be as consistent as possible and never disappoint: Any promise made, such as to publish weekly or get back within 24 hours etc. should therefore be met without fail.
  4. Gather and publicize testimonials which attest to his/her trustworthiness.
  5. Build and publish or send out “proof of purchase” stories or case studies which showcase what he/she has achieved in real client situations and clearly demonstrates capability.
  6. Keep his/her communications at all levels plain, simple and concise and avoid showing off.
  7. Guarantee his/her work where he/she can.
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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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