In this article, Heather Townsend, author of the best-selling and award-winning The FT Guide To Business Networking, and The Go-To Expert, explores why you are not getting enough high quality referrals via your network.
1. You are your network’s best kept secret
There is a myth that if you do a good job then your clients will become your best sales team. Unfortunately far too many accountants and professionals generally actually fall into this trap. Of course, there does come a point when you have a critical mass, that the referrals you need from existing clients are all you need to grow or maintain the size of your practice. However, most professionals who want to grow their practice don’t have that critical mass. Or they are getting the wrong type of referrals from their clients. (See point 5.) If you don’t get out and about physically or virtually and spend time with your network, how on earth will they remember you when they could refer someone to you? In other words, unless you get yourself out and about (physically or virtually) it is nigh on impossible to win clients via your network.
2. You don’t keep in touch consistently
If you go out to an event and have 5 great good conversations, and then don’t do anything with those conversations, you may as well have not gone out to the event. A lack of consistent follow up is often the biggest barrier to accountants and lawyers (and other professionals) from winning work via their network. When I talk about following up, what I am really meaning is consistently staying in touch so that you are always near to the top of their mind. When I mean follow up and keep in touch, what I don’t mean is add them to your email distribution list. Take the time to create positive conversations and ‘touch points’ whether by email, social media or face-to-face.
To help you keep in touch with the people who matter, download from our free career kitbag a relationship plan template. (email required)
3. You haven’t differentiated yourself
Accountancy is probably one of the hardest professions to differentiate yourself from your peers. After all, so many other accountants do exactly what you do. Although many professionals such as employment lawyers would say exactly the same thing. However, if you are going to consistently win business via your network, you need to have something which differentiates you from your peers. Of course, doing a great job and keep-in-touch consistently with your network is a big step forward. But, to really get the referral for the clients you want, you need to make a case in the person’s mind to refer you and only you. This is where having a niche or specialism can pay real dividends (sorry for the pun…)
4. You have ignored your online footprint
My team is expanding and I am on the look out for a few associates to join me on the ‘How to make partner’ side of what I do. I was given a few names of people who may be suitable. Before I directly contacted them I looked at their LinkedIn profiles, Googled their names, checked out their website and generally did a great job of online stalking them. As a result of this experience I didn’t contact everyone. Your potential clients will do exactly the same as I have done. Regardless of how strong the recommendation is to use you, they will check you out online. If you have ignored your online footprint, especially your LinkedIn profile, you could be losing nearly half of your prospective clients. (Nearly 50% of all prospects will check you out on LinkedIn)
5. You haven’t educated your network about the right type of client for you
It is not enough to just get referrals from your network. You need to get the right type of referrals. Are you creating the right type of messages about what you do and who you do it for? Or are you still claiming to be able to help everyone? The content you create or share, as well as your website, will help educate people who is the right type of client for you. Rather paradoxically, the more specific you are about the right type of client for you, the more referrals you will get from your network.
To help you plan the right content for you to create and share, download our free guide to content planning from our career kitbag. (email required)
6. You are networking in the wrong places
Now I am not meaning you are in literally the wrong room. What I am meaning is that when you network there are not enough of the right type of people that you want to meet there. One of my clients stopped networking at general SME type events and only started attending industry specific events for the type of people he wanted to meet. He got a significant upturn in the amount of referrals he got from ‘working the room’ as well as his network generally.
7. You have the wrong professional intermediaries in your network
The problem is that most accountants, like many other types of professionals, have the same usual suspects that they get referrals from. I.e. bank managers, IFAs and lawyers. The problem is that every professional normally wants referrals from these usual suspects. Or the professional intermediaries you do know just don’t the type of clients you want. Not every professional intermediary is created equally. Your aim is to choose very carefully which relationships you will invest time with in order to produce regular referrals.
Networking and having the right people in your network does not always equate to a steady stream of referrals. The messages you consciously and sub-consciously give out to your network are just as important as the company you keep.
- Business Development Clinic: How to network effectively without having to go out networking in the evening
- Business Development Clinic: How can I make myself more memorable at networking events
- Business Development Clinic: 7 signs that a prospect is interested in using your services
- Business Development Clinic: How to educate your network to find you the right type of referrals
Heather Townsend helps professionals become the The Go-To Expert. She is the author of the award winning and best-selling book on business networking, the ‘FT Guide To Business Networking’ and the co-author of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’, and ‘The Go-To Expert’. Over the last decade she has worked with over 300 partners; coached, trained and mentored over 2000 professionals at every level of the UK’s most ambitious professional practices.