Guide to meeting an introducer for the first time: What you need to say and do to generate referrals

You are meeting a potential introducer for the first time. This article looks at what to expect from this first meeting and how to make sure it goes well, in order to win a steady stream of future referrals from the introducer.


Don't fall into this trap with introducers!

Given the pressure to win work, many of us go into this meeting thinking that we will walk away with work or the hint of work if we sell ourselves correctly.

This is absolutely the wrong way to approach this meeting. This first meeting is not about selling. Let me explain...

Imagine you were going on a first date. (And in many ways, meeting a potential introducer for a first meeting is the business equivalent of a first date.) If your date suggested a one night stand, or even the cheesy line "how do you like your eggs in the morning?" I'm guessing you would be horrified and try to end the date rather quickly.

It's the same when you are meeting someone you might want to work with. You are hardly going to refer them work based on the strength of one meeting when you hardly know them or their ability to deliver. So, why do we expect that on the strength of one meeting an introducer will give us immediate work? Particularly when you remember that they probably know at least 5 other local accountants whose firm is in direct competition with yours.

What should your objective be for this first meeting?

Remember that you are not there at this first meeting to sell. This means your objective is NOT to come away with work! You have multiple objectives for this first meeting. They are:

  • To see whether there is good chemistry between you, i.e. can you form a lasting business relationship? This is essential if they are going to become a good long term introducer for your firm.
  • To see how credible they are. And in turn, demonstrate your credibility. Are they the sort of people you would want to refer YOUR clients to?
  • To see the likely potential of referrals flowing between the two of you. And remember, it can be very useful having someone to refer work to who you know can't easily reciprocate. It's not always about being able to mutually refer each other. There are many other ways to be helpful to an introducer without sending them work.
  • To get another date in the diary to meet if the first three objectives are being met

Think about it. You need time to form a relationship. It doesn't happen as a result of just one face-to-face meeting.

How much should you talk about you and what you do?

The most important thing to develop in the first meeting is the relationship between you. Everything else is secondary. After all, you are not going to win referrals if you don't like each other!

Remember you are not here to sell to the other person. You want to play it so that you are quietly confident rather than arrogant. This means:

  • Take the time to really find about them and what makes them tick
  • Ask them about their practice, e.g.
    • What's the biggest thing they are working on right now?
    • What's a typical case/matter/client/piece of work for them?
    • What does success look like for them in their role?
  • Explore what makes a good referral for them and what questions to ask to uncover a referral for them. If you do this then they are likely to reciprocate. If they don't then this should sound a warning bell to you!
  • Find out where there are opportunities in a lifecycle of a client to refer them to each other
  • Talk about your credibility stories and statements, i.e. sentences and stories which demonstrate your credibility

The pattern of the conversation will form the basis of your relationship going forward

Do listen to the balance of the conversation. Is the other person hogging it? Are they interested in you? Or is it all me, me, me. This first conversation will form the basis of your relationship going forward. For example, if they haven't taken the opportunity to find out your practice and your ideal client, how likely are they to refer you in the future?

What should I be looking for in this conversation?

If the conversation is going well, then you may come away with some proposed introductions to good people. However, what you are looking for is very simple:

  1. Relationship: Will I get to know and like this person?
  2. Credibility: Can I trust that they will deliver if I send them work?
  3. Ability to refer: Are they in a position to regularly refer me work, and if the relationship develops well WILL they refer me work?

In other words you need to know by the end of the meeting how much time you want to invest in the relationship going forward. As I have mentioned in this article getting an introducer to regularly refer work to your firm is a long term investment. Trust takes time to build.

What happens after the meeting?

Like being on a first date you need to assess whether there is enough potential substance in a future relationship to merit a second date. Therefore, if the potential is there suggest another meeting to further develop the relationship. Also ask them what would be a good way to stay in touch? For example, what they find useful to get from you?

Further reading:

5 types of referral friction you need to overcome if you want a steady stream of referrals from your introducers

10 things your receptionist needs to do to help your firm generate referrals

How to use extraordinary client service to generate referrals from existing clients

How to market a webinar so your clients and prospects actually turn up

5 types of referral friction you need to overcome if you want a steady stream of referrals from your introducers

Ready to kick-start the growth of your firm?