Referrer and Intermediary Management – Silos, Targets and Culture

At the end of January, I enjoyed meeting delegates (at the Novotel at Tower Hill) on the MBL  “Developing more work from referrers and intermediaries” workshop. There were architects, bankers, accountants, forensic investigators, insolvency practitioners, lawyers, pension advisers and tax experts who had a range of areas of expertise including bloodstock, housing associations and commercial property. Here are the highlights on Referrer and Intermediary Management – Silos, Targets and Culture.

Overcoming silos and internal communication for cross-selling

A key barrier to cross-selling and internal referrals was that firms were structured into silos. This led to a lack of internal knowledge of what different departments do and little sharing and co-ordination of clients across teams.

While some firms used CRM systems (Microsoft Dynamics and SalesForce were mentioned) to overcome a lack of internal communication about referrers and clients and past and current cases, many reported that they lacked good enough data to conduct analysis to support cross-selling initiatives.

Cross-pollination could be achieved by having people attend meetings for different departments. It was noted that often marketing and business development (M&BD) professionals in firms see things from a birds-eye view and are able to help individuals see opportunities for other teams within their clients.

We considered how to create and implement internal campaigns to increase engagement and product/service knowledge and prompt internal referrals. We created an example campaign increasing staff’s personal cybersecurity knowledge which also raised awareness of services for clients.

One delegate reported that her firm arranged regular “Back to the Office” conferences where staff spent time opting to attend different talks (many provided by external speakers) and walking round stalls where the firm’s different services were promoted in interesting ways.

Another firm mentioned that they operated a series of book clubs where people from different departments came together regularly. This supported mutual knowledge of their professional work.

Targets and targeting of referrer management activities

Some firms already had plans for how they intended to develop more work from their referrers and intermediaries. Typically, these plans included:

  • What they hoped to achieve (targets)
  • Who they were aiming to meet
  • What they planned to do (and how often)

Few had identified the costs (both cash for events and entertaining as well as time invested) to undertake the activities. Similarly, few had processes for measuring success although most had processes for reviewing activity.

Some firms categorised their referrers and intermediaries. We looked at several approaches for categorising and prioritising and delegates added their thoughts which included:

  • Red, Amber and Green
  • Cold, Warm and Hot
  • Arm’s length vs wined and dined regularly
  • Top three for a person and a team
  • Exclusive and non-exclusive
  • Monthly, quarterly and annual meetings

Those with non-repeating clients and work (e.g. insolvency and tax investigations) were more reliant on external referrer management than those with ongoing clients where internal cross-selling initiatives were more important.

Cross-cultural perspectives for international referrals

Having just returned from Doha, Qatar I reflected on how the process for forming business relationships varies so much in different cultures. For example:

  • In Qatar, virtual calls are rarely used – face-to-face conversations in a semi-formal environment (eg at a majlis) dominate business relationships. Traditional drinks – shay (tea) and gahwa (coffee) – and dates are usually served at the start of meetings and an important aspect of hospitality
  • Family connections are extremely important – as is the respect you must show to senior and older people (see power distance ideas How can I improve my cross cultural communication (
  • Time and punctuality – like other polychromic cultures, arriving late for a meeting is not a sign of disrespect or rudeness (as it is often perceived in a monochromic culture like Britain)
  • Functions for entertainment and networking are usually organised for genders – I attended a delightful women’s evening and met an incredible range of journalists, chemical engineers, arts executives, dentists etc
  • The ultra-wealthy and royalty restrict access to a very limited number of people

I mentioned the national cultures comparison tool from Hofstede.

Interestingly on the day of the workshop, there was an article Brag like an American to get ahead at work, British told | News | The Times. In the article, Meredith Fineman, author of “Brag Better: Master the Art of Fearless Self-Promotion”, is quoted in The Times saying that raising the things you’re doing well at is something we should all be doing – especially those who work from home. Psychotherapist and founder of the consultancy Humane Startup Ashlie Collins said she had to get used to a less ‘in-your-face’ style of self-promotion when she hopped over the pond from America to the UK in 2017. She said: ‘People do see it in the UK as bragging, whereas in the US it’s seen as self-promotion. That’s how you get ahead – you push boundaries.’ We talked about this advice when we considered thinking about our messaging and how to be remembered by people.  And sharing stories about our clients’ successes felt a more comfortable way to achieve this.

Other topics explored

Intelligence on referrers

Several exercises revealed that we didn’t know enough about our existing or target referrers – their personal and professional interests, their business aims and strategies and their wider team and environment.

This will shift the focus in future discussions from telling them all about yourself and your firm to doing more research and asking them to share information about what they are hoping to achieve and the culture of their firms. We considered the power of curiosity What is curiosity and why is it important in business relationships? (Video) ( And explored various sales methodologies.

Referrers and events

Organising and attending events were an integral part of marketing and business development activities to create and strengthen relationship with referrers. Delegates were keen to share what they considered the most beneficial types of events for referrer management:

  • County Shows – Events organised over several days where there were plenty of opportunities to visit the stands of referrers and to meet and talk in a semi-formal environment
  • PropSki – Real estate professionals getting together on the slopes every year. PROPSKI – Meet, compete & network now includes shooting, sailing, golf, rowing, karting events.
  • Race events where your profile can be increased by sponsorship

All of the sessions I present for MBL including referrers management, telephone skills (client service and selling), selling skills and process, developing a private client practice, pitching skills, developing a surveyors’ practice and change management are listed here SpeakerKim Tasso (

Delegate aims

  • Forge new (referrer) relationships
  • Learn new ideas for developing more work from referrers and intermediaries
  • Succeed in a new business development or relationship management role
  • Learn how to differentiate myself and my firm
  • Consider how best to promote a “distress” purchase
  • Develop strategies for when we are unable to reciprocate clients and work
  • To get out of the office and meet people!

Delegate takeaways and actions