Not everyone likes to cold call, and if you build a great referral network, you’ll find you won’t have to cold call quite as often.  You begin creating a referral network by asking your happiest clients for referrals.  That’s the easy part!  You don’t need to stop with your client, you can ask anyone for a referral!  Not sure how or who to ask? Here are some tips to help you get started.

We recommend using the “Who do you know that might need our services?” approach when you’re speaking with your peers.

Here’s an example:

When you are prospecting, you reach the CEO of a prospective client, have a discussion about your services, and identify there isn’t a current need, or they aren’t a qualified lead.  Before ending the conversation, ask this person if they know of anyone who might need your services.  In this scenario, you won’t have to explain what you do, you’ve already done that before pitching your services to them.  They may or may not know someone who is looking, and you can ask them to keep you in mind if they hear of anyone.  Then, of course, ask them how you might be able to help them.  What kind of business are they looking for?   Referral networks are based on reciprocity, so make sure you’re prepared to start giving as well as taking!

You don’t have to stop there!  Anyone can be a source of referrals, and if you hate cold calling, you need to get good at collecting warm leads!  You can ask complete strangers for referrals.  The easiest way to to this is by using sales trigger networking questions.

Asking for a referral when you haven’t pitched your business yet can be a little challenging.  You may not have the time you need to go deeper than a quick elevator pitch.  You don’t want to be the guy at the party going on and on and on about work and not socializing.  Even if you have the time to share more about what you do and how you do it, most people won’t know off the top of their heads which of their peers are looking for a new IT provider (and most of their peers aren’t actively looking for a new IT provider!)  So how can you gather referrals at events, parties, golf tournaments, and even on airplanes?

First, identify your biggest “sales trigger” events.

Let’s use moving as an example.  If a company is moving offices, that is an excellent time to begin evaluating their IT infrastructure, and it’s a good time to meet with potential new providers.  This is a sales trigger event, and one you should be actively trying to track in your community. Start asking people “Do you know of anyone who is moving their office this year?”

It’s much easier to off the top of your head suggest someone who is doing something specific rather than racking your brain for a potential buyer of IT support.  Compare these approaches you may use at a networking function:

“Do you know anyone who’s looking for IT support?”

“Hmmm. No, sorry.”

“Who do you know that might be able to use our services?”

“What do you do again?”

“Hey, do you know anyone who is moving offices this year?”

“Oh yeah, my friend Joe’s company is moving offices in the new year, they’re really busy planning for it!”

Taking the sales trigger approach one step further, you can begin building an active referral network. Let’s use moving offices as that event trigger again.  Who is the first to know when someone in your community is moving?  Commercial realtors.  Property managers.  Moving companies.  Chambers of commerce leaders.  Lawyers.

Make a list. Start schmoozing.  Drop off donuts.  Tell people who you’re looking for.  Ask them how you can be of assistance to them.  The goal is to make sure you’re the first phone call they make when they learn a company is planning to move.  Before long, you’ll have a steady stream of leads with an identified challenge that you can assist with!

Remember:  referral networks live and die on reciprocity.  You can’t take and not give, or you’ll soon find your referrals going to someone else.

Did you miss our recent webinar on building referral networks?  The recording is available on our YouTube channel here: