Developing referral relationships with fellow professionals is a notoriously tricky task and a struggle for many advisers. Matt Anderson of The Referral Authority offers his tips.
If there is one thing people in business are assumed to know how to do, it is developing relationships with other professionals to the extent they become great referral sources.
Clearly, however, if this really was so straightforward, far more people would get more business from other professionals.
Sure, most people are good enough at setting up an initial meeting with a potential centre of influence but many do not know where to take it from there.
Indeed, I do not think I have ever seen a simple step-by-step guide on how to do it, so here is mine:
Twelve steps to developing referral sources
1 Make small talk
While small talk is not for everyone, it must be if you want to put the other person at ease. A couple of minutes enquiring about their weekend, the weather, sports or how you were referred to one another is the safest place to kick off.
Failure to build some rapport can sometimes assure no business will be done as the other person will feel like they cannot refer someone they have not had a chance to get to know – or like.
2 Find common ground
It sounds like a bit of a sales technique to suggest you find common ground but research done by psychology and marketing professor Robert Cialdini shows that it makes a big difference to your chances of doing business together.
Start with who or what connected you in the first place, then see if you have lived in the same area, have similar hobbies, have children of a similar age or read the same books. It is worth a try even if it sounds a bit shallow or seemingly irrelevant to your core products or service. It can create bonds.
3 Be interested
If you steer the conversation to their business and their interests, you will find that meetings almost always have a more favourable outcome. Ask open-ended questions. Ask for their opinions.
Being an interested person is one of the few character traits that top sales professionals have in common.
Weave between business and personal topics. For every two mini-topics about business, mix it up with a question about their family, interests or favourite holiday destination, for example.
Also, listen more than you talk. Listening builds trust and shows you care enough to learn.
4 Find out whether they know the right people
Everyone talks a good game over business coffees, lunches and drinks after hours. Unfortunately, most people are either too busy to be really interested, do not walk their talk afterwards or do not know how to build business relationships.
It is crucial that you know as early as possible whether the person you are meeting with can open bigger and better doors for you. While this may sound cold and calculating, I am not talking about amassing a long list of nice people to have chats with. Most of the people you meet with will be nice but I am guessing your time is very limited.
Ask them where they get their clients and get a sense of where they meet people.
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