If you’ve been in business for quite a while, you already know that the best way for any businessperson is to get clients is by referral. But the process of building sufficient word of mouth to produce the number of clients you need can seem scary, and maybe even impossible. You can count on some referrals from your existing clients and people who already know you, but that’s never enough. You need to keep on getting new clients in order to sustain the success of your business.

Where do you look and search for business referrals from people outside your circle? Here are some suggestions.

Look into those who are often in touch with your target customers

There are a variety of ways to find them, but you don’t want just ‘anybody’. To be successful in receiving quality referrals one of the most important criteria is that your referral partners must have “opportunity.”  That is, the opportunity to interact with your potential target customers on a regular basis.You see if they don’t get enough exposure to your target prospects they won’t be able find many referrals or be able to recommend you very often. So if you take that thought to its logical conclusion, and you’ll realise that you need to start with your target customers.

Increase your circle of friends and acquaintances

Perhaps the best way to build up referrals is to build up the number of people who will potentially be so impressed by you and your products. You need to analyse and think of how to increase the size of your circle to include more people. In order to refer you business, people need to know, like, and trust you. They want to be sure that you will take good care of the clients they send you. For that, they’d like to be better acquainted than just hearing your name. Ask friends to introduce you to even more of their own friends and contacts – then you do all the rest.

Look them up in directory listings

When you aren’t able to make enough connections through networking and your existing contacts, don’t be afraid to just look them up. You can find people in almost any occupation listed in your local phone directory or on the web. If you approach them as a colleague and express your desire for the two of you to help each other be more successful, you’ll find many people willing to get better acquainted.

Look into your competition

This may sound counter-productive, but no two businesses have exactly the same products or services, customer relationships and existing set of clients. What may be a long-time customer of your competitor may someone who is looking for some fresh approach which is completely new to them – and VICE VERSA. In short, clients who are looking for some new flavour may find you the answer to their need for change, and your own set of clients may find this new perspective in your referral partner too.  So, look for other sellers or companies who deal with the same prospects as you.  Define your ideal prospect—you may have more than one ideal—and then look for others who target the same prospect.  You want to find sellers who are already established in the market; who have the reach and reputation you wish for yourself; and whose quality of products and services match yours.

At a lunch meeting – pitch your proposal

Set an appointment with the perfect partner prospect. Invite your partner prospect to lunch.  Your partnership discussion is important and shouldn’t be a viewed as a casual phone conversation.

Many of your potential partners will be men and women you either don’t know or have only met once or twice very casually.  Many will not know who you are.  Since the men and women you’ve identified as potential partners are the best in their industry in their local market, a very effective way to gain a lunch meeting is to acknowledge their success and superior reputation.  Just call them, introduce yourself, and then tell them that you know them via their reputation and the quality of their work and that you’d like to take them to lunch as you have found that it is always good practice to know top people in the business.  Most will accept—people like to be recognised for their work.  Seldom have been turned down with this approach.You do want to know the best people in the business and they are among the best in the business in their area.