Identify your ideal client. Now identify who has access to them in a non-competitive but complimentary way. For example: I was once a member of a closed networking organization. (A closed networking organization is one that allows only one member per profession and is exclusively for the purpose of referring business.) There were three members there who continuously referred business to each other. One was a Real Estate agent. One was a mortgage banker. The other was an insurance broker. They were not competitors but all three had the same target customer. These relationships were greatly beneficial to the business of each.
Identify organizations or events where you will meet potential clients and/or the people you’ve identified that share your target market. Visit several of these organizations and events. Join the ones you like best. It’s better to be involved in fewer organizations and make a contribution in each than to be a member of many.
When networking, get people talking about themselves. Hearing their stories and what they do will give you an idea of whether they’ll be a good contact for you and whether they are likely to refer business. The more you know about them the easier it’ll be to determine the best way to follow-up.
Follow up with good contacts by linking on LinkedIn, sending a “nice to meet you” type email or a personal note. Then create a plan for keeping in touch with them periodically. Stay in touch with people you like. If you don’t genuinely like them and only care about what they can do for you it’ll show through. Even if someone you connect with isn’t clearly a prospective client you never know who they may be able to refer you to! Besides, it’s more fun to work with people you like!
Think in terms of an emotional bank account. Each positive encounter makes a deposit. Each negative interaction or asking for a favor is a withdrawal. Systematically make deposits by giving (paying it forward) by sharing meaningful articles, congratulating them on promotions or appointments, commenting on their social media posts, making a referral, etc.
Avoid asking for a referral or a favor before you’ve ‘earned the right’ by building a solid relationship. The long-term value of a relationship with a prospect or associate can bring many clients into your business over time. Asking for the business or a referral too soon can be offensive and keep you from developing a meaningful relationship.
Remember the old adage, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If you come across as someone who is only focused on what people can do for you it’ll be difficult to develop supportive relationships where people feel comfortable making introductions and giving referrals.