The Referral Process–Steps 1 and 2

Last week, I wrote a blog explaining that referral networking is a system –when it comes to the actions of generating, developing, and closing a business deal through a referral, there is a well defined, systematic process.

The good news is, this process can be broken down into eight easy steps and today I am going to explain steps 1 and 2.

  • Step 1.  Your Source Discovers a Referral

The referral begins with an event that is outside your direct involvement: your referral source uncovers a referral opportunity for you.  This occurs without your direct involvement, but it happens because you have laid the groundwork for it by cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship with the person who is going to be motivated to bring you the referral and by making sure she can inform the prospect about the benefits your business can provide.

  • Step 2.  Research the Referral

Your referral source tells you she has a referral for you.  At this stage, your impulse might be to call the prospect immediately–you know, strike while the iron is hot!  But that would be a mistake.  In fact, it’s the most common mistake people make, and in many cases it’s referral suicide.

Don’t let your excitement cloud your judgment about the opportunity.  As soon as you get the call from your referral source, and before you even think of picking up the phone and calling the prospect, you should start digging to find out everything you can about your prospect and his company.  How old is the company?  What is the prospect’s main line of business?  How successfully does it compete?  What is the company’s market valuation?  What products or services of yours might be of most use or interest to the company?  What is its track record with vendors?  Does it deal fairly and straightforwardly with suppliers and clients?  Is it in good financial condition?  Will you be competing with other vendors for its business?

Can you think of any other questions that would be good to consider when researching a referral in Step 2 of the referral marketing process?  If so, please share it in the comment section.  Also, be sure to check back next week to read about Step 3: Checking Back in with Your Referral Source.

The Referral Process – 8 Easy Steps

Much of what I write about networking and referrals emphasizes the circuitous, sometimes mysterious nature of referral networking.  In a deep, broad-based, mature referral network, where you spend a lot of time doing good things for others without looking for a direct reward, and where the good that you do winds its way through the system and eventually comes back to you in the form of referrals, it may seem odd to describe referral networking as a system.  But that’s what it is, and when it comes to the actions of generating, developing, and closing a business deal through a referral, there is a well defined, systematic process.

What is a referral?  It’s not as simple as it’s sometimes made out to be.  We leave college and go into business knowing little about referrals, because referral marketing is rarely part of the curriculum.  We know what a great thing it is to get a referral, because it generally means lucrative business with a reliable client.  We often think of it simply as a connection to someone we can call on to do business with or, if it’s not our kind of business, someone we can refer to someone else.

We understand that referrals are the best kind of business.  What we don’t understand is how to make them happen when we want them and, when they come in, how to get the best results from them and make them last.  The referral process is a system that has a lot of feedback built into it.  If you follow it for every referral, you will get predictable results: more closed business deals and a never-ending supply of referrals.

I have broken the referral process down into eight easy steps:

  • Step 1–Your Source Discovers a Referral
  • Step 2–Research the Referral
  • Step 3–Check Back In With Your Referral Source
  • Step 4–Meet With the Referral
  • Step 5–Report Back to Your Source
  • Step 6–Your Source Gets Feedback from the Referral
  • Step 7–Your Source Reports Back to You
  • Step 8–Close the Deal

I’ll  be breaking these steps down in detail in several different blog entries over the coming weeks so if you’re interested in getting specific guidance on how to execute each step in the referral process, be sure to check back in weekly.

Jack Canfield Talks about Why the VCP Process® Makes Sense

A couple of weeks ago, Jack Canfield and I did a one-hour interview where we talked about business networking and success principles.  In about a month, the video of the interview will be available to view on Jack’s website ( in the “Inner Circle” section.

In the meantime, I invite you to check out the 3-minute video above where Jack talks about some of what he picked up about networking during our interview and why the VCP Process® really strikes a chord with him.

A New Twist on a Simple Technique to Refer Networking Partners

If you’re a good networker, you know that by looking for ways to refer those in your network and referring them any chance you get, they’ll be anxious to return the favor and you will get more referrals as a result.

This video talks about how my friend Mohammad Favakeh, owner of Monte Carlo Chauffeured Transportation (, has put a new and interesting twist on a technique which I’ve been recommending for years that makes it easy for people to refer their networking partners.

Watch the video and you’ll see how easy it is.  Really–all you need is a simple card file and it’s a great technique for anybody who wants to build their network!

Do You Want To Become a Best-Selling Author? Here’s Your Chance. . .

I’m working on a new project with Nick Nanton, Esq., The Celebrity Lawyer, which gives small business owners, entrepreneurs, and businesspeople around the world the opportunity to establish themselves as experts in their field by achieving best-selling author status.

We recorded a call outlining the details of the project last month and you can listen to the call for free by clicking here.  If you have ever been interested in becoming a best-selling author, I highly encourage you to listen to the call today as registration for participation in the project ends this Friday (3-25-11).

One of the reasons I chose to become involved with this project is because I firmly believe that being recognized as a best-selling author is a highly effective way for businesspeople to establish credibility as an expert in their field and drive business, and I wanted to be a part of an initiative that helps give people this opportunity.  I also think that Nick Nanton is the perfect person to partner with in a project of this nature because of his experience and his background in promoting hundreds of authors to best-seller status.

Nick is known as The Celebrity Lawyer and Agent to the top Celebrity Experts for his role in developing and marketing business and professional experts, through personal branding, to help them gain credibility and recognition for their accomplishments.  He is recognized as one of the top thought leaders in the business world and has co-authored 8 best-selling books, including Celebrity Branding You!®.  Nick has led the marketing and PR campaigns that have driven more than 100 authors to best-selling status.

If you’d like to find out more about this opportunity, listen to the free recording of the call. You will learn how you can:

  • Become a Best-Selling Author
  • Position Yourself Above Your Competition
  • Use Your Best-Seller Status in Your Marketing to Grow Your Business
  • Use a Book to Drive Traffic and Lead-Generation on Your Website
  • Repurpose Your Content to Get Business Even from People Who Don’t Buy or Read Your Book
  • And More

CLICK HERE to listen to the free recorded call now.

Great Opening Question

A good networker has two ears and one mouth and should use them both proportionately. When you meet someone in a networking environment you should ‘listen’ more than you ‘talk’ (especially if it is the first time you’ve met). Consequently, in books like The 29% Solution and Networking Like a Pro, I’ve written a lot about the kinds of questions you should ask when you meet someone for the first time.

Recently, I was at a networking event and, at the end of the conversation, someone asked me a question that no one has ever asked me before at a networking meeting. She asked, “What is the most amazing thing that has happened to you today?”

I love that question because it is so positive and unique.  It made me stop focusing on anything other than the question at hand and required me to be completely present in the moment because I truly had to think about what the greatest thing was that had happened in my day so far.  At the time, I shared what came to mind with the woman who asked me the question.  However, it’s interesting to note that today, many months later, what I remember most is that question . . . not whatever “amazing” thing happened to me that day.

If you have a great opening question, I’d love to hear it. In the comments section, share a stand-out question that you, or someone you’ve met, has asked at a networking event.

Preview of Business Networking and Sex Book

Last week I posted a blog asking all blog readers to take a short survey relating to the book I’m currently writing with Frank De Raffele and Hazel Walker about gender and networking.

The book won’t be released until early next year but I’ve already received several requests for more details in regard to what the book is going to be all about.  In light of that, Frank, Hazel and I decided to make a short video for those who are curious to learn more about our upcoming book.  The video is only a few minutes long and you can view it by clicking on the link above.

I’d love to hear what you think of the concept of the book, or even of just the video, so please feel free to leave a comment.

“Tell To Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story”

Peter Guber, Chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, has a powerful new book coming out on March 1st called Tell To Win.

This book is not only an extremely interesting read, it is also an important resource for networkers in every part of the world.  Peter is a master storyteller and, with this book, he teaches readers how to achieve success in business and life by connecting with people and engaging them on an emotional level through the power of stories.

I met Peter at one of his storytelling symposiums which he conducted in preparation for this very book and, I can assure you that if there is one person in the world with the expertise to teach others how to change lives through the power of stories, it’s Peter.  Tell To Win offers dynamic storytelling techniques that are greatly beneficial in a face-to-face networking setting. Below I have pasted an excerpt of Peter’s words, specifically discussing the importance of telling your story in a face-to-face environment.  If you find this material useful, which I have no doubt you will, I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of Peter’s new bookLearning how to connect with others through storytelling is an ability that will continue to serve you well throughout your entire lifetime.  It is an invaluable skill that you will be endlessly grateful for obtaining and, as you can tell from Peter’s words below, he is the ultimate teacher.

The highest and best use for telling purposeful stories in the room, face-to-face, breathing the same air and reading each other’s micro-expressions–something you can’t do in any other medium.  In writing my new book, Tell To Win, I conversed with the foremost folks in technology–people like Chris Kemp, chief information officer at NASA Ames Research Center, Phil McKinney, the chief technology officer at Hewlett Packard, Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, and many others–and asked them if digital or state-of-the-art technology could replace what I call state-of-the-heart technology.  Their response was an overwhelmingly consistent “not at this time.”  In fact, Arianna said it best when she asserted in front of one of my masters UCLA classes (I’ve been a professor at UCLA for over 30 years), that the more time we spend in front of screens, the more we crave the intimate in-person interactions where we tell our stories to realize our dreams.  And, she didn’t stop there!  She exhorted my students that if there’s something incredibly important upon which everything depends, you always want to be in the room.

You can’t yet duplicate the same effects of telling oral stories in the same room, breathing the same air, pressing the flesh.  However, many of the critical elements of telling purposeful stories work in other mediums.  Always motivation comes first which starts with you–your intention.  This authenticity must shine through.  The trick is not to try to be interesting, but to be interested–know what your audience is interested in and deliver what’s in it for them.  All good telling of stories has a goal–the action you want your listener to take.  Don’t hide it.  Interactively engage your listener, your audience, so it’s not a monologue, but a dialogue.  It is a conversation in which the telling becomes a “we” experience rather than a “me” experience.  A critical marker is the willingness of the teller to surrender proprietorship over the story so the listener can own it and viral market it as her own.  The story content is lurking everywhere–first person experience is best, but equally powerful is an observed event, a movie/book/artifact, or even a metaphor or analogy.

To learn more about Peter Guber and Tell To Win, please visit:

Generate More Business by Offering Value-added Advice

It’s no secret that we all want to do business with people whom we know and trust.  So, how do you build rapport and create trust with new contacts at networking events?  By offering value-added advice–solid, helpful information provided out of a genuine concern for another person.

Let’s say you’re a real estate agent talking with someone at a networking event who, although not ready to buy a home today, is heading in that direction.  You could say something like this:

Well, I know you’re not interested in buying a home right now.  But, when you’re ready to start looking, I highly recommend checking out the north part of town.  A lot of my clients are seeing their homes appreciate in the 10 to 20 percent range, and from what I understand, the city is thinking about building another middle school in that area.

See how it’s possible to offer some value-added advice without being too salesy?  A statement like this acknowledges that your prospect is not currently in the market (first sentence) but still demonstrates your expertise, so he will remember you when he’s ready to move.

This model works for consultants, CPAs, accountants, financial planners, coaches–just about anyone in a service-based industry in which knowledge is the main product. If you’re concerned about giving away your intellectual capital for free, look at it this way: few people are going to sign up to do business with you if they’re not sure you can do the job.  In the absence of a tangible product, you have nothing but your technical expertise to demonstrate that you have the goods.  And when you think about it, that makes sense.  Whenever you’re ready to buy an automobile, it doesn’t matter how much research you’ve done on a particular model, you’re probably not going to write your check until you’ve taken the car for a test drive.

The same is true for your prospects.  Give them a little test drive to show how it would feel to do business with you. If you’re a marketing consultant, give them a couple of ideas on how they can increase the exposure of their business.  Don’t go overboard; maybe offer a technique you read in a magazine or tried with one of your clients.  Just give them something they can try on to see if it works.

Not only will this open up a good conversation with new contacts while you’re out networking, if you play your cards right, whom do you think they’ll go to when they’re in need of your kind of service? 🙂  When it comes to building rapport and creating trust, nothing does it better than offering value-added advice.

What’s Your Excuse for Not Following Up?

What’s your excuse for not following up with new contacts after networking events?  It doesn’t really matter what your answer is because I’m here to tell you that the correct answer to the above question from this point on is: There is no excuse for not following up, so I don’t have one.

We all know that networking without follow up can equal a big waste of time.  However, many networkers still find every excuse under the sun not to follow up and the most common reasons they use are either that they’re not sure how to appropriately follow up or they don’t have time.  As promised in Monday’s blog entry, today I’m going to give you two free follow up note templates (these will work whether you’re using e-mail or mailing a hand-written note) that will make it a no-brainer for you to follow up with new contacts.  No more excuses!

Follow up Template for “B list” contacts (those who may become valuable contacts in the future but not right away):


My name is John Smith, and I’m the consultant who met you the other day over at the chamber.  I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed our conversation–and it sounds like you’re really doing well and staying busy.

Anyway, it was good talking to you, and if I can help you out in any way, please let me know.


Follow up Template for “A list” contacts (those who might become new clients or referral partners right now):

If using e-mail, use this subject line: Nice to Meet You–Chamber Event (1/23)


My name is Jane Smith, and I’m the consultant who met you the other day at the chamber event.  I just wanted to say I really enjoyed our conversation and was hoping I could learn a little bit more about what you do.

I’m thinking we can get together for a quick cup of coffee.  That way, if I run into someone who could use your services, I can point him in your direction.  How does next Tuesday morning sound for something over at Starbucks?

Again, great talking to you, and if I can help your business in any way, please let me know.


Using these follow up note templates provide you with a great base for building relationships with the new contacts you make at networking events.  One more quick tip: Regardless of whether you choose to use these templates when writing follow up notes, always be sure to first remind the person of who you are and where you met so your note doesn’t get instantly discarded.

Sorting Out Who’s Who

So, let’s say you’ve just returned from a networking event where you met a lot of new people and now you have a pocketful of business cards that you’re not sure what to do with.  What’s your first order of business?  Your first order of business is to sort out who’s who.

You need to separate the people you think might become new clients or referral partners right now from the ones who might be valuable contacts sometime in the future but not right away.  Let’s call the first group your A list, the rest your B list.  (Sounds kind of Hollywood, doesn’t it? :))  When you enter them into your contact database, labeling each contact as part of group “A” or “B” would be good to include (along with type of business, address, phone number, event where you met, etc.).

Now that you’ve got your contacts filed away neatly, take a look first at your B list. You want these folks to know you enjoyed meeting them, and you want to keep the door open for doing business with them later on if a good opportunity arises.  You can do this with a quick note by either e-mail or snail mail.* If you find you need to reconnect with one of these people at a later time, you’ll at least have some traction in the relationship simply because you followed up with a quick e-mail.

Now, what about your A list? These are people who have immediate potential as referral partners.  You need to follow up with them quickly–within a few days, before you drop off their radars.  First, initiate a “coffee connection” with each of your new contacts, a follow-up meeting where you can get to know her and find out how you can help her.  Anything short of trying to find ways to help her will generally be treated as a sales call instead of a relationship-building contact.  To ask for this first meeting, either a handwritten note or an e-mail is acceptable.*

At this point, you may be asking, “What about the people I meet who aren’t potential clients and aren’t in a field that can refer business to me?  Should I follow up with them anyway?” Absolutely!  You never know whom other people know; even a quick little “Nice to meet you” e-mail is better than not doing anything at all and hoping these people remember you later when you discover a need to do business with one of them.

Now that you know how to sort out who’s who, be sure to do this each and every time with the business cards you gather in your daily networking activities and, I guarantee you, you will start to see greater results from your networking efforts.

*Come back on Thursday to read a blog entry with specific examples of what your follow up notes to group A contacts and group B contacts should say–I’ll give you two free follow-up note templates so you’ll have no excuses for not following up with your new contacts.  Trust me, following up couldn’t be any easier than this!

Making Connections to Start Your Own Business

I recently got asked a really great question on Ask Entrepreneur: Where do I get connected with people who can help me open a business?

Though there is evidence that business is currently on the rise and the economy is moving in a positive direction, the recent downturn in the economy prompted many people who found themselves unemployed to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit and consider starting their own business.

This begs the question above–are there efficient ways to get in touch with people who can help you start your own business?

The answer is yes, and here are my three recommendations:

1) Go through your contacts and talk to people you personally know who have started a business. Set an appointment.  Let them know what you are doing and ask if they’d give you an hour of mentoring.  If possible, meet with them in person.  Show up with specific questions written out in advance.  Send them the questions prior to the meeting so they have a good understanding of what kind of information you’re looking for.  When you meet, focus on those questions, write down the answers, and stick to the time frame you promised.  If the conversation goes well, ask if you can meet with them in the future.  Follow this process with two or three people who have opened a business successfully.  I guarantee you will find this to be very valuable.

2) Find a business coach who has experience with start-up businesses. Hire them to coach you through the process.

3) Read, read, read!  There are a lot of books out there on opening a business. I have personally reviewed many of the books published by Entrepreneur Press on starting a business and they are excellent.  Go to to see some of them.

I strongly encourage anyone genuinely interested in starting their own business to pursue the endeavor. I have owned my own business for almost thirty years (that’s a picture of me at top right, when I first started my company, BNI, and was running it from my house and garage with only one other employee in the mid ’80s) and it continues to be an amazing and fulfilling journey. I don’t think I would ever go back to working for someone else.

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