How to approach a prospective referral source

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The Internet presents endless resources for finding people who might become a referral source for you.

They’re out there, in droves.

But once found, how do you approach them? How do you get their attention without appearing needy? How do you start a conversation and bring up the subject of referrals?

How about simply introducing yourself?

Tell them who you are, what you do, and why you are contacting them.

I assume you can handle the who you are and what you do part, but make it brief. One or two sentences. Only enough so they know you’re a fellow professional.

As for why you’re contacting them, well, why are you doing that?

Because you see a connection with them. (If you don’t, contact someone else.) Tell them about the connection.

You found their website or social media profile and see that you and they target the same market. You represent the same types of clients. You offer services that dovetail with theirs. Or they’ve written an article that deals with issues you’ve written about or care about.

Introduce yourself. Mention the connection. Invite them to chat.

“I thought I’d reach out to you, find out more about what you do, tell you more about what I do, and see if there might be a way we could work together.”

If you’re speaking to them on the phone, continue the conversation. Of invite them to meet you for a cup of coffee. If you have contacted them via email, ask, “When would be a good time to chat for a couple minutes?”

You’ve been honest with them, you have suggested a possible benefit to them, and you haven’t pushed.

They’re either interested in speaking to you or they are not. If they’re interested, move forward. If they’re not, move on.

When you talk, ask lots of questions and keep the focus on them. Get them to tell you about what they want or need. What are their goals and plans for the future? What obstacles are in their way?

Look for ways you could help them or their clients, either directly or by introducing them to someone you know.

Then ask, “Who would make a good referral for you?”

Powerful question, that. It tells them you’re serious about working with them.

When it’s your turn, tell them about your practice and tell them who would make a good referral for you. Tell them you’ll send them more information and invite them to do the same.

Is that all you have to do to get business from someone you just met? Usually not. But sometimes, it is. Sometimes, in speaking with you, they think about someone they know who might need your help.

After your chat, send business if you can. Send information about something they want or need or that might benefit their clients. Share marketing ideas with them. Introduce them to vendors and freelancers who can help them. Invite them to write an article for your client newsletter. Offer to interview them for your blog or podcast.

They will (at some point) do the same for you.

There’s more you can do to build a referral relationship. A lot more. But you’ve opened the door and started the process, and that’s the most important part.

Learn what to say and do to get referrals from other professionals, here

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