A colleague recently asked me how I get referrals. It’s a good question, because referrals can be a terrific source of new business.

Referrals happen both deliberately and organically.

Deliberate referrals are all about staying top of mind and letting people know you are available. For example, I will often ask clients and colleagues if they know of other people with whom I might usefully network. This is a great way to ask for help without putting someone on the spot thinking that you’re suddenly going to try to “hard sell” their connections. I will also, at times, ask people more directly if they know of others who are looking for help.

Organic referrals are the ones that seem to drop into your lap. Though, of course, work rarely shows up this way. Because I’ve been in business for a long time and have a fairly wide network (and do the “deliberate” stuff), I periodically get calls from people who have been given my name by a colleague.

Don’t forget about reciprocity.

The third way to get referrals is by being a good connector. For me, reciprocity isn’t a one-to-one equation. It’s more about what I call the “good karma” rule, passing on projects that aren’t right for me and sharing job openings with colleagues who are searching for their next great opportunity.

Do you rely on referrals in your business? What’s your strategy?

Photo by Flower’s Lover (Flickr).

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