One significant strategy of my Referral Advantage Program® is working to gain referrals through Centers of Influence (CPAs and other trusted advisors). One way to tap into this gold mine of referrals is through a formal networking group, a group that becomes your own personal sales force or board of directors.
A Referral Master
While delivering my referral seminars and boot camps and coaching top producers, I occasionally run into a financial professional who has truly mastered the referral process and lives a referral lifestyle. I want to introduce you to Brian Michaels. Brian is a Financial Consultant in Maryland, my home state.
Your Board of Directors
Brian would tell you to “Form your own Board of Directors and put them to work for you.” And he’s done just that. Working through BNI (Business Network International), Brian started a formal networking group, hoping to turn the group into a source of quality referrals. This he has done, and then some.
His group was originally composed of only professionals related to financial services, such as a CPA, insurance agent, attorney, and real estate agent. Lately the group has taken on more creative members. Brian says, “It’s not so important what they do, as long as they have the ability to facilitate introductions to qualified prospects.” He goes on to say, “For the best success, you want people with strong connections in the community and with a strong willingness to give. In our group, the people who give the most seem to benefit the most. BNI calls this “givers gain.” I call this the “law of reciprocity.”
So, how does this formal networking group actually produce results? Here are three examples. One of Brian’s best sources of referrals is a real estate agent. I love the way she introduces him to her clients. After she sells a home and has a happy client, she carries on the following conversation: “I’m glad you’re happy with your new home. You did me a favor. Now it’s my turn to do you a favor. I have someone I want you to meet. I’d like to introduce you to him over lunch.” Since she’s on his “board of directors” she knows exactly the type of prospects that matches Brian’s practice. She gives him a steady flow of great referral clients.
At one BNI meeting, when it came his turn to speak for a few minutes, Brian asked the group, “Who do you know who you most think should meet me, but you can’t figure how to make the introduction?” Each member of the group wrote down a few names, and then went on to brainstorm how to make the introductions happen. Wow! That’s a powerful way to leverage great relationships. Several great referral clients were born from that simple exercise.
Not too long ago, Brian’s Branch Manager gave him an RFP to manage the money for a hospital foundation. On the foundation’s letterhead was the list of the foundation’s board of directors. Brian took that list to his referral group and asked, “If you know anyone on this list, I’d like to know.” One of his members immediately said, “My wife is playing bridge with her right now!” Through this effort, Brian was personally introduced to two of the six investment committee members. This often cold process just got warmed up significantly.
I call this the “hit list” approach. You identify business and community leaders whom you think fit your client profile. You put them on a list and share the list with clients and centers of influence. It’s amazing how many introductions you can get over time. These people don’t want to meet you through a cold call, but they will meet with you if a friend or colleague introduces you.
A Referral Mindset
This is the type of activity you can create for yourself if you bring a referral mindset to your practice. (You can read more about the 7 referral attitudes that produce results here.) You understand that your prospects prefer to meet you through a referral, so it’s your primary method of prospecting. Brian has created a steady stream of high-quality referrals coming his way because he’s constantly giving referrals and because he created a systematic approach to the referral process. If you’re not getting as many referrals as you’d like, try forming your own personal sales force of people who meet the kind of people you want to meet. Go to give and watch the law of reciprocity kick in for you.