Finding a new referral partnership is just the first and often the easiest step in a successful referral relationship. After all, how does one develop a relationship with anybody he/she has yet to meet or find?
Where, then, does one find the best referral partners? Below are some suggestions.
Look towards people who are willing to help you
A referral partner can be any person, group, or institution that is willing to refer potential clients to you. There are many possible referral sources including:
- existing prospects
- others who serve your market
- existing clients
Get to Know People in the Know
Professionals serving your market can be great referral sources for several reasons. These professionals:
- Know your market and are well connected at many companies
- Are more likely to understand what you do and the type of clients you’re looking for
- Will see situations where your services are needed
- Have an incentive to refer you (since you can refer them)
- Will be open to a discussion even if they don’t know you (you have connections to offer)
- Can collaborate with you on projects (or hire you as a subcontractor)
Your own contact list
Go through your contact list and identify everyone who meets your criteria. Determine the strength of your connection. Then develop a contact strategy. Close connections may get a phone call. More distant connections may get an email.
Don’t exclude competitors. Often professionals are less competitive than they appear. Even a direct competitor may refer you if the project is not appropriate for her; if she’s overloaded or if there is a client conflict.
Seek people who are always in touch with your target
Identify potential referral partners by creating a list of occupational categories whose members are frequently in touch with the type of client you desire. Be where the target is. Associate with those who have a great chance of paving the way for an easier introduction. These people may be people who know the people you know. Word of mouth is a great way to trace back these potential referral partners.
Use your category list to identify professionals whom you don’t know but would like to meet. LinkedIn is a good source for this. Run searches by category of, for example, small business owners in the Sydney vicinity/area. Assemble a list and then determine which of your LinkedIn contacts can introduce you.