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The Four Keys to Referral Success

by Michael Beck  |  
October 14, 2008

Don't you get tired of hearing about how great referrals are? Especially if you're not getting enough of them? I am always speaking to managers, agents and advisors who say they're so tired of chasing "suspects" and would love real prospects—specifically prospects that come from referrals.

I have one acquaintance (a property & casualty [P&C] agent) who, every time he sees me, asks if I have any ideas on how he can get people to call him so he doesn't have to actually find prospects! (Of course, there are ways to accomplish that, but he won't put in the effort...)

We all know people, or at least know of people, whose business is sustained and grows by referrals. But most professionals can't seem to get there.

It's worth taking the time to understand why most referral efforts don't work and to understand what keys need to be in place in order to get the results you want. It's worth taking the time because prospects who are referred to us are easier to close, make their buying decision faster, are more profitable (because there's no cost in acquiring them and they spend/invest more with us), and they're more loyal—they tend to stay with us longer and stay through most of the ups and downs.

Let's start by looking at why most referral efforts fail. (I'll assume that you are likable, have integrity, and know your stuff.)

Over my years of working as a professional and working with professionals, I've identified four critical keys to referral success. Most professionals fall short in one or more of these areas.

The vast majority of referral-hungry professionals work with too few referrals sources or "centers of influence." Whenever I do a workshop and ask attendees about how many centers of influence (COIs) they have, the typical answers range from three to six. That's just not enough to produce a meaningful, steady stream of referrals.

Sometimes, by the way, I'll have attendees who claim they work with 50 or more centers of influence; but, after further questioning, it becomes clear that they don't know how to define someone as their center of influence.

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Michael Beck is "Head Zookeeper" at, a website dedicated to getting more clients, making more money, and having more fun!

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  • by Kimberly Corley Tue Oct 14, 2008 via web

    This article was perfectly timed. I was preparing a personal note to my repeat customers (those who have ordered a gift from Cake and a Prayer 3 or more times), to thank them for their business and to encourage them to send a gift from Cake and a Prayer during the holidays by providing a discount on future orders. Over the past few months I have added "create a referral program" to my to do list more than a few times. What better place to start than with my repeat customers whom I consider an extended circle of influence because they already have an emotional attachment to our products. Thanks for the reminder.

    Kimberly Corley
    Cake and a Prayer

  • by Beth Bush Tue Oct 14, 2008 via web

    these ideas will work for the non-profit arena as well.

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