How to Get Referral Partners to Send You More Clients

It’s 10am on a Tuesday morning. You’re sitting in Starbucks, a Grande Pike steaming in front of you. You’ve pulled out your notebook and your latest brochure and you sit there…eyes glued to the door, waiting… Yet another “networking coffee” with someone you hope will become a true referral partner.

What we hope for in our partner relationships and what the other partner hopes you’ll do for them is often a long way from reality…

What happens in most referral partner relationships?

In most referral partner relationships, you start with grand pronouncements of your mutual desire to help each other by sending new business “whenever you come across someone” who needs what the partner offers.

It all sounds so promising.

You end the coffee meeting and both walk away smiling, but a little empty. You’ve done this before and it’s rarely paid off.

But this time will be different! You’re convinced of it.

Then, weeks pass with nothing from your new “partner.” No email, or call, no letter or fax or smoke signal.

Another promising coffee, yields nothing for you, or your partner.

Why don’t they refer you, if they say they will?

So, why don’t well meaning, honest, and successful people refer you, when they say they will?

There are 1000 reasons, including these…

  • They’re busy like you, running a business of their own, with a family of their own, with too long a todo list and too few hours in the day…
  • They don’t know how to refer you or who would be a good prospect (yes, I know you talked about it, but that was one quick conversation weeks ago)…
  • They forgot…
  • They lost your card…
  • It’s too hard to refer you…

But it’s almost never because they don’t want to help.

Referring you is too hard, so you’re not getting referrals

To overcome all of those 1000 reasons they don’t refer, you’ve got to do two things:

  1. You’ve got to do something to help them remember you on an entirely different level than every other person they had coffee with this month, who wants those same referrals.
  2. You’ve got to make it much easier to refer you.

“But I’m not hard to refer…”

Are you sure?

Put yourself in the shoes of your referral partner. You’re most likely asking them to refer you to their business contacts–clients and other partners.

Their clients are worth money. Usually a lot of money. You’re asking them to send their clients to you so you can sell them something.

I know you’re really good at what you do, but to your referral partner, all they’re seeing is RISK.

“If I refer my client BigCo to Bob, and Bob doesn’t perform, or if he just doesn’t mesh with the management team at BigCo, they’re going to remember I introduced them. And they’re worth $50,000 a year to us. I don’t think I’m going to do that…”

But even getting to that point assumes your partner knows a lot about you…including how to identify a good prospect for you.

Stop and think what you’re asking of your partner…

You’re hoping he or she will be able to understand enough about your business, the problem you solve for people, and the market you serve, to spot a prospect when they see them.

How long did it take you to figure all of that out for yourself?

It takes most businesses several years to get it all dialed in. Your partner got a 30-minute briefing over coffee. Which is why you need to train your partners…

How to “properly” train a referral partner

The “old approach” to referrals says, give a referral to get a referral.

The problem with that approach is that you’re in the same boat as your partner. You probably don’t understand enough about his or her business to spot a prospect either. And if you did identify one of your clients as a prospect for your partner, you’ve got to swallow the same risk…

So, yes “give first”, but give differently…and train your partner to do the same.

The simple approach I teach my clients and I wrote about in my book is something I call the “Johnny Carson Method”.

See Carson was a master at “referring” talented people to millions of TV viewers on The Tonight Show. It never felt “salesy”, even though the aim was almost always to sell–a new movie, a comedian’s act, a band’s new album–it was always authentic.

Johnny’s secret?

The interview. He allowed his audience to eavesdrop on his conversations with the people he was “referring”.

If you have a list of clients and prospects (your audience), you can do the same.

Bring to them, all of the wisdom and expertise and personality of the partners you’re networking with.

Every time you use the Johnny Carson Method to refer a partner, you’re training them in how they can promote you.

But my referral partners won’t get it

I understand why you’d think that, but try it, then tell me. Few professionals are ever interviewed during the course of their careers.

They’ll feel flattered and their ego will compel them to want to be interviewed when you propose it.

Not to mention their own self-interest for growing their business. See, you’re making this all about THEM. What a great place to start your relationship.

Once you’ve trained them what should you do next?

The next step is simple…

Turn the tables. Say, “Hey Sue, that went so well and I’ve had such great feedback from my clients and prospects about what you shared in your interview, that I’d like to return the favor and lend what I know to your clients and prospects. Why don’t you interview me, and we’ll have something valuable for your people too…”

And like that, you’ve given your partner a way to refer you to most everyone in their Rolodex, without any risk.

Gee, this seems like a lot of work

It is, and it isn’t. You have a choice, you’re working to get clients now. You can keep working to get them onesie-twosie or you can choose to work smarter.

To work with leverage.

How this leads to a lot more referrals than you’re used to

Instead of “hoping” for one or two referrals from a partner, you’ve opened an opportunity to get 10 or 20 or 100 (yes really) referrals from a single referral partner.

I’ll wager that’s more than you get in a year from all of your current partners put together.

I know it sounds like a lot of referrals, and it is. It may even sound impossible. I can assure you it’s not.

I know, because our clients see those kinds of numbers regularly. And, here, we eat our own dog food…and using the same process, we see between 100 and 250 referrals from a single partner.

But forget those big numbers for a second…

Imagine if you just got 10 referrals each, from two partners each month. That’s not a lot. Would it make a difference in your firm?

If you answer “yes,” you might want to check out our latest business owner briefingHow to Get Clients Without “Prospecting”, Cold Calling or Spending a Dime on Advertising

This briefing is for business owners who close most of the prospects they see, but just aren’t seeing enough people to get all the clients they need.

Click here for the next available presentation time.

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