We all know that personal referrals are not only key but, for professionals, the most advantageous way to make contact with potential Buyers. That's why it is important to remember EAR, the acronym that reminds us how to get referrals:

Earn the referral. This often is the result of doing a good job for a client, building trust and credibility with a non-client, and remaining visible and relevant to both groups' business conversations due to what you write and say in public channels. These all influence someone's intent to refer you. They're absolutely necessary, but are not sufficient to start the flow.

Ask for referrals. In surveys, when clients acknowledge that they don't often refer their lawyer to others, and are asked why, they most frequently respond, "I've never been asked." You can't simply ask for a generic referral ("Is there anyone you can refer me to?") or ask a lazy question like, "Know anyone who needs a lawyer?" Even those who really want to help you can't because the question is unanswerable. Instead, familiarize potential referral sources with your Door Opener problem and ask if they know anyone whose circumstances make it likely that they face that problem now, or will at some point.

Also, don't sabotage yourself. Be careful to avoid language regarding your schedule and work load that unintentionally suggests that you may be too busy to accept new work or a new client: "So, Mike, how's it going?" "I'm swamped. Trying to come up for air." Is that someone you'd refer work to?

Recognize and reward referrals. While we may be limited in our ability to reciprocate referrals directly, and it can be difficult to gauge the propriety of tangible expressions of appreciation, one simple reward available to each of us, every time, is to say "Thank you for introducing me to..."

To that, add, "Keep the referrer in the loop." Don't make them guess whether or not you've attempted, or made, contact. Let them know what happened, or what's not happening. We've all been referred to people who haven't responded to our outreach. If you're CC'ing your source on the intro email attempts, they'll recognize if you're not getting through, and will often communicate on your behalf ("Say, Jane, did Mike and you ever connect?"). Because you've kept them informed, they know that Jane hasn't responded, so they can ask the question comfortably, knowing that Jane will be apologetic and explain what's kept her from replying, and that she'll do so quickly.

When you connect with someone to whom you've been referred, let your source know the outcome, and even if it's a dead end, thank them for some specific benefit that you gained from the connection. "It probably doesn't make sense for us to pursue this further because [reason], but I gained a terrific insight about [Door-Opener problem] that I hadn't previously understood, and she introduced me to [secondary referral]. Thanks so much for putting us together." (BTW, you always ask each person you speak with to suggest someone else who can offer informed opinion about the topic.) By telling your original source that their referral in turn referred you, you reinforce the source's behavior

For more, read How to Manage a Referral Proffer. Together, all these raise the odds that someone will refer you again.

Mike O'Horo

Here are some RainmakerVT online courses to help you with concepts referred to in this post: