How to Get Referrals from Non-Clients: The Referral 100 Strategy

written byChris Dreyer posted onSeptember 02, 2020
How to Get Referrals from Non-Clients

What would it mean for your business to get next to the top 100 people who were most receptive to your brand? Imagine that you are able to channel all of your marketing and sales resources directly at this niche, extremely relevant audience. Once you learn how to get referrals that fit this criteria, you can take your business to new levels.

You can also check out my slide deck below on the Referral 100 Strategy:

1. What is a Dream 100 list?
The late best-selling author, Chet Holmes, pioneered the idea of a “Dream 100” list in his book The Ultimate Sales Machine. It’s a list of your ideal clients, used by identifying the individuals first, then engaging in targeted marketing to continually be in front of them. The concept says that, by always being in their proverbial line of sight, you’ll have the best chance to eventually sign them. This strategy is effective because it helps maximize your advertising efforts. Rather than casting a broad net, you laser-focus on exactly who you want to work with …and by doing so, avoid waste. In The Ultimate Sales Machine, Chet focuses this strategy on the client side. This lead me to consider, “Could this be applied as a referral strategy?” Essentially, referral partners are (non-salaried) outside sales reps, after all.
2. What is a Referral 100? How does it help me get referrals?
Simply put, a Referral 100 is a list of your top referral partners. These partners are those that, in an ideal world, have the potential to send you the best qualified leads. It’s essentially a form of building your sphere of influence in a controlled manner. We all know that referrals are the best leads that you can get: they are the most likely to convert, due to pre-established trust (from the referring source). A Referral 100 list identifies those individuals who have the highest likelihood and are most able to send you your ideal clients. Let’s face it: you can’t sell everything yourself. You need strategic partners to better serve your client’s end goals. Frequently, referral strategies focus on how you can get more referrals from your existing clients. I’m taking the contrary position and suggesting that you should try to get referrals from your non-clients.
3. Misconceptions about Referrals and How You Get Them
Before I talk about how you can build your Referral 100 list, I’d like to address a couple of common misconceptions about referrals and their value:

  1. “Referrals don’t scale.”: This simply isn’t true. You can always expand your sphere of influence for opportunities to receive clients.Some of the best sources of referrals are sales reps, who are constantly receiving new inbound leads. Again, referral partners are non-salaried sales reps. How many non-salaried sales reps would you like to hire? As many as you can get, of course.
  2. “Referrals come automatically from results.”: To be clear, most clients are happy to give you reviews or to tout your accomplishments…but no matter how much the client likes you, they’re doing business with you because of their interests, not yours. Results tend to encourage reciprocity, it’s true, even if you still have to ask for it.Individuals will send you a referral because there’s something in it for them. That’s typically either that they want you to continue producing a quality service for them or they think that you’re going to send them a referral in return. Situations may vary, of course. I’m sure there are some Gandhi-style good Samaritans who are just throwing referrals around wildly, without a thought for reciprocation…but I wouldn’t count on that.
  3. “My clients won’t be receptive to receiving a referral recommendation.”: I get it: if you only provide a certain service, why would they listen to you?The answer is integrity. It’s also that individuals like to do business with those they already know and trust; in other words, your recommendations should be much better (and more worthy of trust) than those of third-party reviews who are left by complete strangers.
  4. “I can’t make referrals happen.”: Well, technically, no, you can’t.What you can do is put yourself in the ideal position to make the most of referrals when they do arrive (and they will).You are not able to snap your fingers, rub a magic lamp, etc. and simply manifest referrals into existence, but you can expand your network, provide services that are of value, and be available when needed. New clients and individuals in your network builds your momentum and gives you more opportunities to receive referrals.
4. How to Create a Referral 100
When developing your Referral 100, I recommend starting with a mind-map exercise. Try to unpack your brain by asking yourself the following:

“Who do my clients associate and congregate with?”

“Who do my clients do business with?”

“What additional services might benefit them?”

As an example, we provide search engine optimization services to personal injury attorneys and law firms. Here are some answers from our own mind-map:

  • Other legal SEO agencies
    • I understand that putting a competitor seems contradictory. However, circumstances may change and a client may no longer be the right fit or you may have territorial issues that prevent you from signing a client; each of these is a perfect referral opportunity.
  • Non-legal SEO agencies
  • Web design firms
  • Social media marketing agencies
  • Video marketing agencies
  • Traditional marketing
  • PPC agencies
  • Family
  • Friends/Acquaintances
  • Software companies
  • Coaches
  • Physicians/specialists
  • Non-PI attorneys
  • Consultants
  • CPA/Financial advisors
  • Podcast hosts
  • CLE/Bar reps
  • Direct competitor sales reps
  • Attorney-related businesses (e.g., high-end tailors, malpractice insurance providers)
  • Professional associations (e.g., Vistage, EO groups)

Limit yourself to 100 total. You’ll continually prune and refine this list, so keep the alternates separate (and handy).

Next, if you’re using a CRM, tag or create a pipeline with the different or distinct categories. For example, we use Pipedrive; we have a sales pipeline called “Referral 100.” We then add individuals into each category to commence a nurturing cadence.

5. How do you nurture Referral 100 individuals?
One caveat that I need to make before I discuss our nurturing approach:

I firmly believe in only referring clients to agencies and businesses with values similar to my own and are known to deliver upon their promises.

The quickest way to exit our Dream 100 is to show a lack of integrity. The most important thing to remember is that a referral is all about their interests (that is, the referred client’s), first and foremost, not yours.

#1 – Send a lead.

The most powerful method of developing a referral partner is sending a qualified lead. It seems incredibly obvious, but it has to be said.

#2 – Engage in marketing collaboration. 

Many business owners own a blog; allow them to contribute content to yours. You can also participate in podcasts, produce joint blogs, send them speaking engagement/webinar opportunities, and/or promote their event.

The key here is the collaborative part, where you’re giving something to them that benefits them. Gary Vaynerchuk has a book called “Jab, Jab, Jab, then Right Hook.” In other words, give, give, give…then ask/receive.

#3 – Introduce them to others. 

You have many opportunities within your sphere of influence to introduce potential referral partners. Like you, they are looking to expand their network.

#4 – Be present and known. 

At the risk of sounding creepy, check out their social media. Interact there. It’s low-pressure and not face-to-face, so it’s not even that awkward. If you do know them and can speak confident about their services, write them a testimonial or review. For example, you could write a recommendation on LinkedIn.

#5 – Act as a business mentor or peer. 

As a business owner, it’s very likely that referral partners are experiencing the same challenges that you are. Anxiety, fear, and stress can seep into all of our daily lives, so if you can help someone with theirs, it’s likely that they’ll remember your kindness.

It’s something that people tell children, but it’s true: “If you want a friend, be a friend.”

“What do you do about those who won’t reciprocate or are ghosting you?”

Do your research; find out what could motivate them to send you a referral. If nothing else, ask them directly. Ask them what makes a good referral partner, in their opinion.

We’re all looking for information to continually improve, whether it’s an employee exit interview or a net promoter score. Use the information that you glean to improve your referral relationships.

What others are saying The Rankings Podcast really gets to the heart of what drives founders, entrepreneurs, and elite attorneys being interviewed (on a personal level). - Ebise