Some referral relationships will develop quickly once you’ve made contact with someone who refers to providers in your area regularly.
Other relationships will take years to develop fully. After you’ve make contact with a potential referral source, you need a system to follow up and build the relationship.
One of the first things you want to find out is the extent to which your new contacts actually refer clients to others.
Prioritize Your Efforts
I use an ABC system for rating new referral sources. You can also apply this rating and follow-up system to people you’ve known for a while. They also vary in their potential as referral sources.
The next step depends on whether you’ve classified them as an “A,” “B,” or “C” potential referral source.
A “C” contact is one who says he or she rarely refers clients to other professionals, or one who has a well-established relationship with a competitor of yours. About half the people you meet will be “Cs,” at least initially.
Follow up with these people by putting them on an email or newsletter list, invite them to your seminars, and practice other low-cost ways of staying in touch.
Some will warm up over time, and some will end their relationships with your competitors.
A “B” contact is one who might be able to make one to five referrals to you each year. He may have a relationship with another firm, but you sense potential. Initially, as many as 40% of the people you meet will be “Bs.”
Follow up with this group as with the “Cs,” plus. Contact them twice a year, just to stay in touch, and – if your talks prove fruitful – schedule another face-to-face meeting.
Your Best Contacts
An “A” contact either needs services for his or her own practice or has the opportunity to refer clients to you more than five times a year.
Of course, you probably won’t meet too many of these – probably about 10% percent of all the contacts you make will begin as “A” contacts. But, for these few, you will want to undertake the highest level of follow-up.
Prioritizing your potential referral sources is the first step to more efficiently reaping referrals.