Business development · 16 May 2022

7 Steps to Referrals That Could Change Your Life

Direct referrals are an excellent resource for any SME, especially if they come alongside a highly complimentary recommendation. The endorsement from previous customers or partners or fellow industry experts often translates into solid business opportunities for you, but how do you go about securing those referrals in the first place? Here is a 7 step guide that might just change your mindset and your strategy.

Step 1

Why do you want the referrals? Sounds like a stupid question but this is one of the most important parts of getting people to refer you. Referrals generate more business; more business creates more money, but it can also create more stress and less time for you. Why do you want more referrals? What impact will it have on your business and yourself if you get the referrals that you want?

  • Would you be under less financial pressure?
  •  Would you not have to work weekends?
  • Would you be more present with the family when you do spend time with them?
  • Would you be able to have more time off?
  • Would you be able to take a 2-week holiday instead of 1 week?
So, step number one is working out what difference it will make to you if you get the referrals you want.

Step 2

Who do you want as clients? The target market is an important part of referral marketing. Who do you work with best? What are they like as clients? How big is the business? Who in the business do you want to deal with? It will take your network the same amount of time to find you a good client as it will to find a bad client. So, make it easy for them and do some research on what a good client for you is. When thinking about the target market you need to consider the following:

  • Locality – how near to me do they need to be
  • Sector – what industry are they in
  • iMA profile – what personality types do I work with best?
  • Position – what role do they have in the company
  • Values – have they got similar values to yours
I only work with people I like who value what I do. My referral team knows the types of people I want to work with. Defining your target market does not limit what referrals you get. It increases the quality of referrals you get.

Step 3

Who in your network has a lot of connections to your target market? At the beginning of lockdown, I started to examine my referral activities including my networking activities. I was a member of three networking groups and although I got business from them all, I found that most people didn’t have access to the clients I wanted.

Problem – Is there a networking group that specialises in professional service which is my target market? Answer – N0. Solution – Build one.

So, I developed the Financial Focus Group. To be a member of the group 30% of your clients need to be in professional services. Building your own power team of people who have access to the clients that you want is the best network you can be in. My team meets every two weeks for an hour online and we spend that hour training each other on how to find referrals. Imagine a football team training individually and then trying to play as a team on a Saturday afternoon. How effective would that be compared to training together all week?

Step 4

What am I going to teach my referral partners about me and my business to find me better referrals? Most people when I meet them teach me more about what they do and that is fine. But it is not what I need to know to find referrals for them. So, what do I need to know?

I need to know:

  • Why do you want more business and what difference it will make to you if you get it.
  • What types of clients do you want?
  • How to start a conversation about yourself?
  • What stops people from buying your products and services?
  • What are the 1st and 2nd meetings like?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • What results will a client get from working with you?
Step 5

Understand the 5-step referral process.

These are the steps:

Trust – if there is no trust, I can not refer you.

Knowledge – If I don’t know enough about you and your business, I can not refer you.

Need – If I can’t spot a need for your business, I can’t refer you.



Ewan Sturman, known as the Jack Dee of networking for his dry humour, is a leading Referral Marketing expert and has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs to grow their businesses by word of mouth. He is an international trainer of Word-of-Mouth Marketing and was an Executive Director of Chester and North Wales for BNI, the world’s largest referral marketing and business networking organisation. With over 15 years of experience in the subject, Ewan teaches businesses how to create connections from existing contacts and has co-authored an audio CD on the subject; ‘How to Get More Business Through People You Already Know’, which was released in 2011. Ewan uses his own experience from setting up a successful opticians business to running workshops on the different ways of developing your business through word-of-mouth referrals and maximising networking opportunities to promote your business. Ewan helps business owners grow their contacts by “word of mouth marketing” and is a keynote speaker at conferences on the subject of referral marketing.