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
  • colleagues
  • others who serve your market
  • salespeople
  • 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.

Go online

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.