Getting the right referrals to clients is the key to success for any professional service provider who depends on others for business.
Many professionals will start the New Year redoubling their networking efforts. They will join additional networking groups with the hopes that being exposed to many people will give them better odds that someone will think of them when a client issue arises. But will they and if they do, will it be the right referral to the right client?
My experience suggests that many professionals will spend another year investing a great deal of time networking only to get disappointing results. Why? There are many reasons. But, the most significant reason is that many feel if they are showing up for networking meetings and events, putting in the time, somehow through the kindness of strangers they will get referrals.
Referrals don’t come from groups they come from individuals. There is an art to getting the right referrals. Those who just show up for networking meetings and events thinking that they are due a referral because they are a member are making a big mistake. The members might know them but have no relationship with them. They completely leave their business to chance.
To get the referrals you want requires you first to be very clear about your business. That is, have a plan. If you are unsure about your direction than others will have no idea how to help you. Honestly assessing your ability to serve clients in a particular market and more importantly in the right market segment is key. If one of your markets is manufacturers, as an example, the type and size are very important based on the knowledge and resources you and your firm bring to bear. If you go too large, you will get stomped by your competitors and if you go too small you will not be able to generate the margins you need to make the business profitable. Getting the market segment right is critical.
Now that you are clear about the clients you serve, it is important to identify and invest in those professionals who are currently serving those types of clients. You don’t need a large number of people; you need the right individuals where you can develop a very special reciprocal relationship.
In ProGrowth, we call these “Level I” relationships. These are relationships built on a close personal relationship where rapport and trust have been firmly established. There has also been a fair amount of due diligence to make sure that the participants can unquestionably help one another. Lastly, these relationships involve people who are serious about their businesses. They are purposeful, intentional and passionate about services they provide.
What makes the relationship so special is that there is an explicit agreement in place to help one another with one significant event over the course of a year. The participants meet monthly for a quick brainstorming session to uncover any opportunities that might have surfaced during the month.
It takes time to find the right people but if you manage the process properly, you will create “ a distribution system” that will give your business a high probability of getting the clients you want. Any business must have a well thought out distribution system. You can have the greatest widget ever invented but, without the right distribution, the product goes nowhere!
Your distributors are these very special relationships that you can count on. Our experience, helping hundreds of professionals like you, create successful practices, suggest that if you can develop just 15 over a three year period – you will hit your numbers.
So what will it be for you? Will you depend on the networking mentality where you look to your group to somehow come through for you? Or, will you make the effort to use networking groups to get access to the right people to get the results you want?
If you decide that the time is now to change and put the right relationships in place, you will not only get the right referrals to the right clients, you will control your destiny and create a business that will make you much more valuable to your firm.
Go for it - I wish you much success in 2011!
Very good article. I like you practical approach. I have tried it the other way and it never works.
For years I have seen the flaws of \\\"BNI\\\" style networks. There are individulas in my group who have never referred to me, in YEARS! Some of the blame falls on me. I have not been clear, and not built strong one-on-one relationships with each member. I\\\'ll be fixing that soon. Thanks for expressing this so beautifully.
Very good article. I like the practicle approach. The other way dosen't work