Gaining More Referrals

• Once a quarter, contact everyone on your list, remind them of your value proposition, and ask for introductions to those who could profit from it.

• Provide a description of your ideal referral, e.g., heads a profit center, manages a sales force, owns a small business, chief operating officer of health care organization, etc. That will increase the quality of suggestions.

• Call referrals on the phone, never send an email. Cite the referral source in your conversation or voice mail to create an obligation.

• Qualify the referral to be sure the person is a potential buyer. If so, focus on a personal meeting as the next step.

• Don’t try to “sell” on the phone. Spending money to travel to meet a true buyer is a cost of doing business if you’re a professional.

• Continue to mention your value to key contacts in your business and social communities: club members, doctors, attorneys, association colleagues, social contacts, etc.

• Don’t expect others who don’t know you to provide you with referrals. When strangers give me business cards at an event I simply throw them away. I have no idea of their quality and it’s not my obligation to check them out.

• Provide referrals to high potential referral sources to create likely reciprocity. You have to “give to get.”

© Alan Weiss 2012. All rights reserved.

10 thoughts on “Gaining More Referrals

  1. Great advice. I myself am trying to get referrals without much luck, until I started to do #2, describing my ideal prospect. You also stand a better chance if the referral source arranges the meeting.

    A question about #5, how do you feel about web meetings such as Skype, Webex or GoToMeetings? I’m in the Caribbean, and here inter-island flight fees are exorbitant.

  2. Agreed, Sachin, that Skype or its equivalent would make sense when island-hopping is exorbitant. But event there, if it means sealing a major deal, I’d get on the plane.

  3. To add to point 2 – Linkedin can be a huge boon here. If you’re connected to your key contacts who would be happy to give you referrals you can see who their other contacts are and suggest specific people you’d like to be hooked up with.

    Or alternatively, use the search function to search for the sort of people who’d make ideal clients (industry, job role, etc.) and see who you have as common contacts and ask them.

    A question for you Alan. In point 1 you suggest asking “your list” for referrals. Would you do this for your entire mailing list – newsletter subscribers etc. (I don’t remember any of these emails from you) – or go for a subset of people you’re a bit closer to and you know would refer you with confidence.


  4. Ian, the problem is that I don’t think contacts on linkedin are valuable at all for corporate buyers in large organizations. They buy from peer reference or public IP.

    As for lists, use a triage: Highest potential call, next highest potential email, lowest potential when you get around to it. But subscription lists and contact lists are two different things, and I wouldn’t confuse the two. You might have had a better experience, but that’s my observation.

  5. Hi Alan – world’s slowest reply, sorry…

    In terms of list – I’d agree a personal contact list is different to a mailing list – that’s why I asked – just wanted to make sure that’s what you were talking about.

    Linkedin-wise, it works for me. I don’t mean Linkedin contacts as in people you don’t really know you’ve connected with. They work in a different way. I mean your real contacts. The people who would get you in via a peer reference into corporates. Linkedin just gives you that extra bit of visibility into who they know. My experience has been that a lot of your good contacts are connected to all sorts of people you didn’t realise they knew.


  6. Ian, no argument, if something works for you, that’s fine. I simply find Linkedin full of people looking for favors, jobs, and handouts.

  7. It probably is, but I guess I’m not communicating the point very well.

    This is not about those people. It’s about connecting with the people you know well who are well connected into the places you want to get and using Linkedin simply as a tool to get more visibility into their network. Like them sharing their little black contact book with you so that when you ask for a referral you already know who they know (or at least the subset that they’re connected with on Linkedin) and can be highly specific in what you ask for.


  8. Hi Ian and Alan,

    sorry to be late to the party. I regard Linkedin as just another source of traffic. As with all these things, knowing the character of a good customer will save you lots of time.

    My main point about Linkedin is that it gets past the “gatekeepers”. I have other strategies, only as a newbie consultant getting past that line of defense is important. And as Ian says, it’s not just about referrals but also as a source of information.

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