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Posted on Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 6 a.m.

Referrals and birthday cakes

By Greg Peters

cake.jpg

Photo by Nadia Jasmine

Let's suppose you like cake.

Oh, not just any cake. What you want is that deep chocolate cake with the chocolate chips baked into the batter. You don't want the buttercream frosting (except for the decorative roses on top). What you want is a chocolate ganache. Between the layers? You want a raspberry filling.

Got the picture?

One day you decide you want such a cake, so you start asking everyone you meet to "bake you a cake". You ask friends, family, even the occasional stranger passing you on the street to "bake you a cake."

Most people ignore you. After all, they either don't know you or they don't know you well enough to put forth that kind of effort. In fact, you've noticed a lot of people are starting to avoid you (they're even calling you the "crazy cake guy").

Still, some — your closest friends and family — really want to help, so they try to ask what kind of cake you want. You just reply with "a cake." More people give up on you because they just don't know what you want and they have better things to do with their time.

Believe it or not, though, one of your closest and dearest friends, Sally, actually goes out of her way to bake you a cake. It's a lemon chiffon — not your favorite. You put it on the counter and let it sit. At one point you accidentally knock it on the floor. You pick up the pieces as best you can and reassemble it — more or less.

At the end of about three weeks, you decide to try a slice only to discover that it's gone horribly stale. What a disappointment! You still really want your special cake, though, so you start asking people again. Even more people avoid you now. Sally? She isn't even taking your calls.

I know what you're thinking. Who would ever act like this? That's absolutely crazy, right?

Here's the thing. Most people treat referrals and their referral partners exactly like this.

Greg Peters, founder of The Reluctant Networker LLC, writes, speaks and coaches about good networking practice. For more tips that can help your connections count, go to www.thereluctantnetworker.com.