Simple Steps for Building Referral Networks

Simple Steps for Building Referral Networks


  1. Make the first move.  Other professionals are out there networking and they may have the same apprehension as you do.  Think how much they will appreciate it if you are the one who takes the initiative, breaks the ice and starts the conversation. 
  2. Know what you want.  If you don’t know what you want or don’t communicate it correctly then you may receive a lot of inappropriate referrals.  Be able to describe the type of businesses you are looking for, specifying the size of clients you prefer, the niches you are looking to build and the type of industries you serve.
  3. Look somewhere new.  Don’t limit your referral sources possibilities to attorneys, bankers, financial planners and insurance agents.  Look to people who sit on the boards of larger, middle-market companies; they usually are business leaders.  Also remember your firm’s own alumni, other professional who serve the industries you serve, and larger and smaller accounting firms. 
  4. Go low pressure.  Instead of the traditional wine and cheese mixer, consider a bowling night or a billiards tournament.  Utilize what you have learned about your referral source and common interests to have fun together.  No pressure just building a relationship.
  5. Don’t forget the follow up.  Determine who you connected with and contact those people soon after the networking event.  Make it personal, with a phone call, a handwritten note or a lunch invitation.
  6. Expand the network.   Once you’ve identified an inner circle of contact, ask those people to introduce you to the people in their inner circles, and do the same for them.  Think of it as a referral mixer where you each bring your inner circles together to network.
  7. Establish expertise.  Host seminars for the niche industries you serve.  Conduct technical presentations to your clients.  Positions your firm as the expert by getting high-level staff to sit on specialty boards and committees.  Sponsor an awards program for an industry you serve.
  8. Volunteer.  Traditional community service efforts, such as serving on the board of a not-for-profit group, bring consistent access and exposure to other professionals. 
  9. Stay visible.  Send emails and call referral sources regularly to stay top-of-mind.
  10. Make it a two-way relationship.  Like any relationship there is a give and take.  Provide referrals and assistance for the professionals in your network, just as you hope they’ll do for you.

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