Working Your Network

by Melissa Griffiths

Referrals are powerful. We all know that. They come from a credible third-party that has experienced first hand the benefits of doing business with you and most of the time they are completely free. How would you like to receive the benefits of the most compelling sales advertisement on earth for absolutely nothing? You can through referrals.

So how do you get referrals?

Time and again the same question keeps coming to me: ‘How do I get more referrals?’ My answer is always the same:

1. “You must ask for them”; and

2. “You must work them”.

If you don’t have a systematic referral program you are missing out on one of the simplest, lowest cost ways to generate new, high quality clients. Referrals are the lifeblood of business and by being out in the market place and connecting with people, you’re taking the right steps to increase your client base. Here are some tips to help:

1. Develop a weekly networking review list. This list represents your weekly log of new and old contacts that you’ve connected with, either face-to-face, by phone, social media, or e-mail. Review the list each week and look at your level of activity. Your list will be a gage as to how well you’re doing. If you don’t have a CRM system I like to use Excel combined with Outlook.

2. Analyze your current and potential referral sources. Segment these into three categories: A = Top referral sources, B = Intermediate or Inconsistent referral sources, C = Non- referring / underserved market.

3. Plan what messages and activities are appropriate for your A, B and C referral sources. For example: plan a thank you message for ‘A’ contacts, make a list of questions for ‘B’ contacts to understand their referring habits, create a message that is appropriate to introduce yourself to ‘C’ contacts.

4. Make time for lunch. (Really). Meeting with vendors, colleagues, ex-colleagues, new contacts, etc., will broaden yourself, your exposure, your value, and your possibilities. We all know how busy it can get, but make the time to get out there. You’ll find it pays-off in the long run.

5. Volunteer for any new cross-functional groups that are being created so that you can meet and work with new people.

6. Always look to grow your network. Adding one person per week will give you 52 new people to connect with in a year.

7. As we often say, “giving something back” is the best way of being remembered and referred. Always demonstrate your interest and willingness to support your networking relationship by offering your assistance.

8. Keep track of your discussions with your contacts. This way you can ask the status of issues or individuals that were discussed earlier, rather than simply asking, “So, what’s new?”

9. Never walk into a meeting empty-handed. Try to always have some information, some idea, some bit of news that might be of interest to the other person. This way, you both walk away with a sense of having received something and have increased your connectedness.

10. Finally, choose a partner whose strengths complement your limits and then play to your strengths. For example, if you are particularly interested in technology, then choose a referral source who can contribute to this strength and who has contacts in areas you might not necessarily have.

Melissa Griffiths is a veteran professional services business developer with a passion for CPA firms. She leads the fast-growing consulting firm Active Advisors, Inc., an outsourced business development firm based in San Francisco, CA. Melissa may be reached at


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