I learned a valuable networking lesson from my business coach last week. This one simple change will turn your referral approach on its head and dramatically increase the success rate of your referrals. It will make everything about giving a great referral easier. And in doing so it will even save you time. Finding referrals the right way is actually faster and easier in the long run than the way we’ve been doing it for years.

Here is what I learned.

Three Steps to Easy, Powerful Referrals

In reality there are only three steps to getting more referrals. And I’ve missed these steps or messed them up over the last several years. This week I learned an important lesson from my business coach about how to better leverage referral relationships. I’m going to share what I learned with you here today in hopes that you can use it to grow your business.

The three steps are:

  1. Review your contact list.
  2. Wait and watch.
  3. Seize the opportunity.

Step One: Review Your Contact List

The first step is to sit down with your ideal networking partner. You should both come to this meeting with your contact list printed out and ready to review. All you really need on that list is the contact’s name and any key demographic information you might not have memorized. Then take the time to go through each other’s lists and ask questions about the other contacts.

For example, let’s imagine you are the owner of Stafford Electrical and you have a good partnering and referral opportunity with a salesman at Fredericksburg HVAC named Sam. You sit down for a meeting with Sam and hand him your contact list. Sam looks at your list and starting from the top he begins… “Tell me about Stephanie.”

“Well Stephanie owns about a 2,000 square foot house. We do annual service for her. She’s a veterinarian and her husband works up in DC somewhere,” you reply.

Sam responds, “You know that sounds like a smaller-than-average home for a family with that kind of income. If they ever were to add an addition to that house, we should be able to help them. Let’s keep her in mind.”

Then you move to the next name on the list.

Lesson Number One: Let the Expert Decide

Of all the things I learned from this scenario, here the biggest one. It’s not my job to be an expert at who my partner wants to meet. In fact, for me to try to do so would be foolish. It has taken my partner years to identify who is an ideal prospect for him. Instead, from my desire to help him, I simply put the names in front of him, answer his questions, and let him tell me who he wants to meet.

Lesson Number Two: What Wasn’t Said

Did you notice something else in this story? Did you notice that you did not try to find a way to make the introduction to Stephanie yet? That’s not really the goal. Why? Because what usually happens is we can’t figure out a way to make the introduction “now” and our brains stop working on the problem.

At this meeting you are just going through the list figuring out who needs to be introduced. NOT HOW! And this is a critical point. You should go through the remainder of the contact list simply identifying who you want to meet, intentionally not worrying about how.

shaking hands in greeting

Step Two: Wait and Watch

Now that you know who Sam wants to meet (Stephanie and many other people) you are on watch for an opportunity to make a warm introduction.

You are not forcing introductions down your customers throats. You do not have to be nervous about “making something happen” or upsetting your clients.

Time will pass. Maybe a few months, maybe even a few years. But when Stephanie eventually calls you out for a quote because they’re ready to put an addition on their house, you are prepared for the opportunity to make a warm introduction to Sam!

Or maybe one of the contacts that you want to meet is a handyman who is a personal friend of Sam’s. This can be a particularly difficult introduction for Sam to make. This is a very important relationship to Sam, and he would never want to put it at risk.

But now Sam can be on the alert. Perhaps six months or two years from now his friend will invite Sam to put together a foursome for a charity golf event. That’s an opportunity for Sam to make an amazing, natural introduction to you.

Don’t Just Wait

The other key point about “the passage of time” is that you need to get back together with your referral partner regularly. Usually you should meet at least once a quarter.

There are two main reasons to do this. One is that your contact lists should be expanding, so there will be new names to review. The other reason is simply to go over your previous desired introductions again, and remind your partner about who you want to meet. This helps keep those names and relationships front of mind. That way when an opportunity comes up your partner will be ready to take advantage of it.


Step reviewing contact list togetherThree: Seize the Opportunity

By reviewing these names regularly, when an opportunity presents itself you won’t miss it. You can’t miss it. Because you know who your partner wants to meet, you’ll find opportunities to make introductions in natural ways.

What I Learned As a Business Owner

So this is what I learned from my business coach last week. I learned that I’ve been doing referral partnerships all wrong. Instead of trying to figure out which of my customers my partner wants to meet, I need to just put the list in front of them and let them tell me who they want to meet.

If I do this for him, he’ll return the favor for me. Soon enough we’ll get better and better at it. We’ll both gain more business than we ever could if we tried to figure out who our partner wants to meet. Instead we let each other, as the expert, identify the target.

I hope this will help you out. It was a blinding flash of the obvious for me. Take this advice with you to your next networking meeting, pull your best referral partner aside, and explain it to them. Better yet, forward this article to them now, and make better use of your next meeting together with this simple approach. I’m sure this one key change to the way you work your referral partnership will generate great results for you both.