Referrer and intermediary management

I’m delighted to say that there were lots of delegates from law firms, accountancy firms, structural engineers, insolvency practitioners, banks and insurers at the recent referrer and intermediary management workshop in London

At the end of the day, after considering how to generate better and more recommendations from internal sources, existing clients and external third parties, these were the delegates’ 13 top takeaways: 

  1. Cross-selling – There was considerable discussion about the various methods to promote cross-selling (see, for example: and We also talked about the professional rules that would seem to encourage cross-selling when in the best interests of the client
  2. Analysis and identification – Several delegates recognised that they needed to do more internal analysis to identify the individuals and organisations generating the most referrals (volume), those of most value and those of a particular type. Such analysis helps not only to concentrate effort on the best referrers but also to consider the attributes of the referring organisations to target. 
  3. Be more detective – We reframed selling to become considered as a detective process. Look for evidence (undertake research), ask questions, listen carefully, learn as much as possible about how things connect before making judgements on how to proceed. Others found the ideas around selling on how to help the client or referrer rather than themselves a more powerful way to think about and conduct sales relationships.
  4. Giver’s Gain – The psychology of persuasion is always of interest. In particular, we considered the psychological evidence to give first and to give more than expected ( There was also consideration about what to do when you can’t reciprocate work referrals ( 
  5. Goals – Most delegates realised the need to set some specific goals for what they wanted to achieve with their referrer management strategy. This was to generate buy-in and investment, manage expectations, measure progress or make the selection of appropriate strategies and tactics easier. 
  6. Internal referral flows – Some delegates decided that they needed to undertake more analysis to understand the internal flows of referrals and identify teams who were net referrers and net receivers of referrals 
  7. Pitching – Some of the delegates were brave enough to role play pitching to a new referrer. It was great to see the sales techniques (empathy, questioning, listening, differentiation, value proposition etc) being put into practice. Other tips for sales meetings are covered here:  
  8. Profiles and plans – Delegates found the exercise to complete the profile for a key referrer useful. It illustrated how little we often know about our referrers and outlined the information required from future meetings. It was also considered a quick and easy exercise for multiple partners to complete for a specific referrer to capture all of the firm’s knowledge about the relationship. 
  9. Prioritisation – There was discussion about the different methods of grading and prioritising referrers. Whilst we may know hundreds of actual and potential referrers, we can only realistically devote time and attention to nurturing a handful on a regular basis.
  10. Pruning – We talked about continuances, the decision making unit and sunk cost biases as the reason why people continue to pursue referrer relationships even when they have never generated referrals. Some were also struck by the dinosaur model and the need to “cut off the tail” both to increase profits and to free up time to develop new and more productive relationships 
  11. Research – Linked to the need for referrer profiles and plans, there was considerable discussion about the need for detailed and regular research into referrer organisations in order to understand their aims and needs more precisely and to make meetings and collaboration more productive.
  12. Social media – We didn’t get much time to talk about social selling but we did look at the value of Twitter lists to enable easier market intelligence gathering. Following existing and potential referrers provides a valuable source of information and opportunities to make connections. We also looked at how some LinkedIn groups provided a powerful channel to some important on-line communities. We looked at different ways to thank people for referrals and recommendations and how these activities could be incorporated into a process to maintain and nurture relationships.
  13. Strategic drift – The idea of being pigeon-holed for a particular type of work or clients resonated. Strategic drift was a consequence of responding reactively to referrals and highlighted the need for a more strategic and proactive approach to targeting and nurturing referrers