Erin Gay, a successful advisor based in Annapolis, MD, has cracked the code of what it takes to get referrals from non-clients. Erin met an estate planning attorney who seemed willing to explore a reciprocal referral relationship. But Erin knew he first needed to become highly referable.

First, Erin spent an hour at the attorney’s office – to learn everything he could about the attorney’s practice; his processes, his clients, etc. Erin needed to feel that if he sent folks to the attorney, they’d be in good hands and it would reflect well on him.

Second, the attorney spent an hour in Erin’s office where Erin laid out his entire process – from when he first meets a prospect, the plan he creates, and how he stays in touch with his clients over time.

At the end of this second meeting the attorney said to Erin, “This is the first time an advisor has taken the time and gone into the detail to help me fully understand their process.”

Erin received two solid introductions from the attorney within a week’s time and the introductions continue to flow both ways.

You Have to Be Referable The biggest mistake I’ve seen advisors make is that they don’t take the time to make sure they are highly referable in the eyes of their potential center of influence. The often think that if they send a couple of referral over to a CPA or attorney that the Law of Reciprocity will kick in and they’ll receive referrals in return.

Please remember that most CPAs and attorneys were born without the reciprocity gene! They are risk adverse and one conversation or a couple of referrals sent their way isn’t usually enough to get the flow going in your direction.

Your 7 Steps to Get Referrals & Introductions from Non Clients

STEP 1 – Identify All the Players If you haven’t already done so, you want to make sure you’ve identified all the types of business professionals who move in the circles of your ideal clients. Then, systematically work to meet and build a relationship with at least one person from each of these categories. The best way to meet these folks is through introductions you’re your current clients and centers of influence.

STEP 2 – Be Transparent Be candid and transparent with these folks. Let them know that you believe in your value, you’re looking to bring that value to more people/businesses, and that you would value their help.

Don’t assume that this will have to be a reciprocal referral relationship. Some folks may expect referrals in return from you and some will be thrilled to have a resource like you then can send people to.

STEP 3 – Communicate Your Full Value (More Than Once) Schedule plenty of time to make sure they understand your value – what you do, who you serve the best, how you do it, why you do it, and how people benefit from your work.

You simply MUST become referable in their eyes. And this isn’t usually accomplished in one meeting. It takes time for your value to sink in. They need to see value in your process and in the results you produce. They also need to like and trust you.

STEP 4 – Teach Them Who You Serve the Best These members of your referral team need to know for whom you do your best work and how to recognize these people/businesses. Teach them the demographics and psychographics or your ideal clients. What would an ideal prospect for your business be talking about, complaining about, or trying to accomplish?

STEP 5 – Don’t Wait for Referrals or Introductions Doing steps 1-4 above may generate a few passive introductions, but if you really want productive relationships, you have to be appropriately proactive from time to time.

If you can identify specific people you know that they know, ask for specific introductions. If not, suggest categories and generally brainstorm with them. This is something you can probably do with these folks 2-4 times per year.

STEP 6 – Secure Effective Introductions Don’t settle for word of mouth or “Call George and use my name.” Discuss how you are going to introduce folks to each other. Will these be in person, over a meal, with an email handshake?

The best way to view any introduction is with the same criteria the Food and Drug Administration uses to evaluate a drug for the market; is it safe and effective? You want your referral source and the new prospect to feel “safe” or comfortable with how you are introduced. And you want to have the prospect’s curiosity peaked a bit to at least get them open to hearing from you.

STEP 7 – Create a Contact-Management Plan These are not set-and-forget relationships. You know the old expression: Out of sight, out of mind. These relationships need continual nurturing to get them to a productive stage and to keep them there. Agree with each person how often you’re going to meet and review expectations, etc. Many of these relationships can go way beyond just a referral-based relationship. You can help each other in many aspects of you respective businesses.

Bill Cates is the author of Get More Referrals Now, Beyond Referrals, and Radical Relevance. He can be reached directly at: