It is said that cold calling is necessary because you never have enough referral leads. This is true. I have argued this position myself for years.
However, what is missing in this perspective is that networking is a great way to generate new business after you have made the sale. I am convinced that after going to all the trouble and expense of securing a client via cold call prospecting, a dynamic way to leverage that success is to follow up by asking for referral leads from those clients. Referral leads have several attractive advantages over cold call leads: your access rates will undoubtedly be higher, voice mail messages are much more likely to be returned, and your duels with the gatekeeper are much more likely to be won by you. Securing a referral lead consists of at least four steps: pre-work; the approach; the interview; and, the post-interview stage.
The pre-work phase prior to starting up a networking, referral solicitation process with your existing client base consists in researching your client and his or her organization prior to a meeting. This is done to give you some talking points with the new prospect and as a way to warm up the relationship prior to a face to face interview.
The Approach phase consists in asking your referring client to prepare the way for you by calling ahead to the new prospect indicating that you will be calling. Hopefully, that call will include some mention of your expertise and the satisfaction the referring party feels towards you and your company. This so-called edification process can be very empowering. Now when you call the receptivity of the prospect should be good, far warmer than what you encounter in cold call prospecting. And if the referring party is a high-status member of the organization, so much the better for ensuring a welcoming embrace of your call.
In the interview or appointment phase, be aware of common links, language, and points of commonality. Be clear about what you want from the referring contact and be an active listener. Close the interview by asking if they have any other suggestions, contacts, and or opportunities that have come to their attention. Thank them for their time. Do not overstay your visit by moving to too much “small talk”. Invite them to be on your support team by stating that you will keep them informed. Get their card and e-mail address. Provide your card.
Write a timely thank you note that is specific to something that happened in your meeting. On an as needed basis keep them informed of your progress. And report back to your referring client what has transpired with your new prospect. Networking in this way via your existing customer base will pay dividends down the line and will function to enrich your social and business capital.