As a professional, you can ease the pain and save time in making sales calls, if you’re a good steward of your already-existing circle of associates and clients – potential centers of influence. That’s a term that refers to people who can and will refer business your way.

There are two types of centers of influence: 1. People who know you well and will refer business to you without being asked. 2. Those acquaintances who need some prodding.

For them, be grateful and show a gracious gratitude. Don’t take such leads for granted. Be grateful for the latter, too.

But you’ll get more quality referrals if you use the following tips:

1. Make sure you’re prepared for referrals.

That means being up-to-date branding on all your collateral – from your Web site to business cards. Rehearse your elevator pitch and value proposition, and  be ready to offer them at the right opportunities.

2. Lay the groundwork to pop the question.

The best time to ask for referrals from a valued client – to maximize your client profile portfolio – is when you’ve done a great job. Be Subtle. Ask your client if he/she likes the results of your latest project.

Make sure you get a thank you.

3. Respond.

Give your client a couple of meaningful strokes. Ask your client for referrals to two people just like them – people who will profit from your expertise. Reiterate exactly what you want. Express your thank you to your client and the opportunity to be of service.

4. With the referrals, be prepared to discuss your anonymous case studies and references.

Unless your client doesn’t mind, it’s best to be careful with the referrals in how you share your successes. Understand the five strategies to build trust with clients.

Be prepared to ask lots of open-ended questions. Do not criticize the prospect’s organization or employees – even if asked to do so. That’s a rude tactic, and you don’t want to imply that you have knee-jerk solutions – if even they are obvious.

5. Schedule a meeting.

Even if the referral doesn’t meet your criteria for a new client, meet with the person. Otherwise, you risk annoying your valued client who gave you the referral.

If you can’t help the person being referred, offer to help find the right professional for the situation. Candidly, I’ve taken on projects referred by clients because I wanted to maintain the strong relationships.

Agree on the next course of action.

6. Follow up.

Thoughtful handwritten notes should be immediately sent to both the referral and the client who did the referring.

Thank you notes to the prospect should include the following elements:

  • Indicate how it was a pleasure to meet the person.
  • Mention one or two examples from the conversation.
  • Include your value proposition, and how you will be of help.
  • Mention you appreciate the connection because it came from a valued client. (Your referral will more likely want to become a valued client, too.)
  • Thank the person, and include a statement to prevent buyer’s remorse.

On the other hand, if you don’t decide to work with the referral, explain why to your client in-person. Remember it’s an opportunity to restate your criteria for new clients.

From the Coach’s Corner, suggested reading:

Profits: Size Doesn’t Matter but Image, Professionalism Count — Appearances and professionalism can make your small business seem huge. If you look as though you’re substantial and that you can handle anything thrown your way – your odds for success improve dramatically. That’s especially true in this economy.

You Can Get Bigger Corporate Accounts in 5 Steps — So your company needs to grow and you’ve decided to go after bigger fish. Getting bigger corporate accounts is easier, if you develop the right system. But not only must you have reason to be confident, you must position yourself and your company to instill confidence in your prospects. Here’s how.

Sales, Networking Strategies to Build Strong Relationships — Sometimes, we have to visit our past as lessons for our business future. Is it your experience, too? When doing some cleaning, I came across some treasures from my high school years. That included a carbon copy of a thank you letter I wrote to the publisher of The Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs.

The greatest compliment a client can give is a free referral. 


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.