Relief from Common Cold Call

A simple step-by-step system for building your referral base.

by Jim Rohrbach

One of the best ways top producers build their book of business is through referrals. Although referral business usually generates the best type of clients in terms of both quality and revenue, many people are not clear on how to effectively get in front of referral prospects. Here is a step-by-step guide to follow:

1. Set a Referral Goal. Like anything else in your career, you can set a goal for the number of referrals you want. A general rule of thumb is that 50% of satisfied clients you ask will give you at least one referral. So, if your goal is to get 10 referrals in a month, you need to ask 20 clients.

2. Start Asking! There are two main reasons why people don’t ask for referrals: One is that they are afraid of rejection. Hey, you already did the hard part — you got someone to agree to do business with you. If they are satisfied with your service, you’ve earned the right to ask for referrals. If you feel unworthy of asking, either you don’t believe in what you’re doing or you lack the self esteem.

The second and more common reason people don’t ask for referrals is that they simply haven’t learned the right words to say! So here’s a little script to follow. By all means, adapt the words to your own style:

“The purpose of my call today is that, as I may or may not have explained to you previously, one of the ways I build my clientele is through referrals from good clients like yourself. My ideal prospect is someone like you, who _____________.”

Simply fill in this blank with the characteristics that describe your ideal prospects: the type and size of business, number of employees, number of locations, and any other defining characteristics you look for. For example, I ask my clients for names of high achievers in the financial services industry (financial planners, stockbrokers, insurance agents), small-business owners, and 100% commissioned sales professionals who would like to go to the “next level,” invest in their own personal development, and earn — or desire to earn — a six-figure income.

3. Dig a little deeper. If no one comes immediately to your client’s mind, you can prompt him with some examples, beginning with asking for introductions to contacts in companies you are targeting. You can also ask for his counterparts in professional or civic organizations he might belong to, or even his neighbors, college alumni, golf buddies, etc., who move in these circles. If he still draws a blank, then just thank him and tell him to call you if he thinks of anyone.

4. Enlist their help, if they’re willing. If your client does give a name, ask, “What would be the best way to approach this person?” When she advises you, ask, “I don’t suppose you could call her to let her know I’ll be calling?” Most people will readily agree to this. If so, I strongly encourage you to set a follow-up date by phone with the referrer.

5. Don’t forget to thank them! Once you get the “green light” to call, get in touch with this prospect to introduce yourself and set a time to meet.

Immediately afterward, send a handwritten thank-you note to the referrer, along with the promise to keep him or her posted on your progress with the person referred. That’s just common courtesy, and it will bode well for referrals in the future.

Generating solid referrals is critical to your business’s success, and it doesn’t have to be a painful or awkward process! With a little planning and a confident attitude, you can expand your client base faster and more easily than ever before.