You’ve done your homework. You’ve created a profile of your ideal prospect. In fact, you have a list of fifty executives who fit the profile.

You know their titles. You know something about their companies, their markets, and their problems. You know how you can help them.

There is just one problem. They won’t talk to you.

The Meeting Your Ideal Prospect Challenge

Does Your Ideal Prospect Look Like This?

Their attitude is just like the guy’s reaction in the photo above. They don’t know anything about you. You have zero credibility. Nada.

They won’t return your calls. And they won’t respond to your emails.

You need an introduction.

Your immediate target market is not the exec who ultimately buys your services. You can’t get to her directly. Your real target market is the professional who can refer to the exec.

Get to Know People in the Know

Your best referral sources are other professionals who call on your prospects. Ideally, these are professionals with complementary services to yours. They should be in a related field but not a direct competitor.

These professionals understand your business and the business of your ideal prospect. They know what you are looking for. And they know what your prospects (their clients) are looking for.

An introduction from a good referral source gives you instant credibility with your ideal prospect. You graduate from vendor to solution.

Three caveats:

  • There is a flipside to this. You need to refer your referral sources. The best referral relationship is a two-way street. It’s a partnership. One-way relationships end quickly.
  • Professionals in unrelated fields may call on the same executive. But they may not be able to help each other. For instance, an IT consultant who calls on business owners may not have much credibility if he refers a marketing consultant.
  • Lawyers and accountants look like natural referral sources for many professions. They have an overview of their clients’ businesses.

But lawyers and accountants are not inclined to refer other professionals. They guard their client relationships closely and are concerned that a referral may reflect badly on them.

Example: The CPA and the Banker

Let’s say you’re a CPA. Your target is business owners of companies between $5 million and $20 million in sales. You produce audited financial statements so your clients can get bank loans.

Forget about cold calling or emailing your prospects. They will ignore you.

Plus, there are dozens of accountants who do audits. You look like a commodity. How will Mr. Ideal Prospect differentiate you from your competitors?

One place to start is with business bankers who call on your target market. These folks already have relationships with business owners. And guess what—the bankers want to make loans to their clients.

Bankers have a good reason to talk to you. You can help them make more money. Contact the bankers you already know. And ask your colleagues for introductions to bankers.

Finding Referral Sources

Here’s how to get started.

Step #1—Determine what kind of professional is a good referral partner for you. Who offers complementary services? Review your projects for the past five years. Who referred you? What businesses are they in?

Step #2—Go through your contact list and identify everyone who meets your ideal prospect criteria. Determine the strength of your connection. Then develop a contact strategy. Close connections may get a phone call. More distant connections may get an email.

Don’t exclude competitors. Often professionals are less competitive than they appear. Even a direct competitor may refer you if the project is not appropriate for her; if she’s overloaded or if there is a client conflict. This is especially true with lawyers.

Step 3—Use your category list to identify professionals you don’t know but would like to meet. LinkedIn is a good source for this. Run searches by category of, say, HR consultants in the New York Metro area. Assemble a list and then determine which of your LinkedIn contacts can introduce you.

Step #4–Educate your other contacts about the kind of potential referral sources you want to meet.