Referrals/Intentional Networking to build a healthy sales pipeline

Friday Funnel Focus by EPOCH Sales Management Solutions

The second New Opportunity Process Bucket, Referrals/Intentional Networking, is all about building a healthy sales pipeline through referrals and strategic networking. 

Let's review the key goals and takeaways for this bucket:



Using CAPS (Characteristics, Alternatives, Pain, Symptom) and asking for referrals is an effective strategy to maximize your referral opportunities from existing clients.


Confirm the customer is a raving fan: 

Before seeking referrals, make sure your customers are highly satisfied with your products or services. Raving fans are more likely to refer you to others.

Make referrals for your customers: 

Be willing to refer your customers to other businesses when it's appropriate. This reciprocity can strengthen your relationships.

Request referrals when customers are happiest: 

Timing is crucial. Ask for referrals when your customers are most satisfied with your offerings, as they're more likely to provide them. Key moments to ask include when they agree to do business with you, express appreciation or compliments, provide positive feedback during a Quarterly Business Review (QBR), or when you complete a successful project with them.

CAPS Concept - how to help customers identify a good prospect for you: 

Educate your customers on what makes an ideal prospect for your business, making it easier for them to identify potential referrals.


Start the conversation in a conversational manner. Confirm their satisfaction with your product or service.e.g., "Sounds like you are pretty satisfied with our product (or service)..." "Those are some great results, aren't they?"

Check their willingness to give a referral.

 "So, if there was someone you knew that could benefit from our product, would you be willing to make an introduction?"

Request permission to ask some questions.

"Mind if I ask you a few questions about that now? Or should we set up another time?"

Transition to CAPS:

Let them know you want to ask questions to help them identify potential referrals.

Encourage them to share specific names. e.g., "Perhaps you can share some first names or write them down as we go, okay?"

Characteristics Questions (Conversational):

Ask questions about the characteristics of your ideal prospect. e.g., "Am curious... What companies come to mind in [share one or more industries of your Ideal Account Profile]?" "Can you picture some with about [share the number of employee ranges for your Ideal Account Profile]?" "Who comes to mind in those companies that [share examples of your Prospect Profile or your Ideal Client Profile]?" "Which ones best share [common value/psychographic of your Ideal Client Profile]?"

 Alternative Questions (Conversational):

Ask questions about alternatives to your products or services. e.g., "What might someone be trying in lieu of products/services of you or your direct competitors?"

"What are some potential alternative ways to solve the problem you solve?"

Ask about companies using those alternative ways.

Pain Questions (Conversational):

Ask questions about potential pains, problems, challenges, or issues. e.g., "Any chance you have heard that someone was complaining about _________?" (Up to 7 Issues, pains, challenges) "Who have you heard that was struggling with X?"

"Who do you know that is striving for Y?" "Who do you know that is frustrated with Z?" 

Symptom Questions (Conversational):

Ask questions about potential symptoms (not necessarily direct pains, issues, or problems). Ask if they have heard of someone talking about any of those symptoms. 


Characteristics, alternatives, pain points, and symptoms can all lead to different referral opportunities.


 Ask for the Referral (Conversational):

Encourage them to provide names and make introductions. e.g., "So, who are you picturing in your mind?" "Would you be willing to see if we might be able to help them like we helped you out?" "Our experience is that a joint meeting or call works best, what would you be comfortable with doing?"

Referral Follow-up:

Keep your clients informed throughout the referral process. Consider a suitable way to express gratitude for their assistance.


CAPS Six-Step Summary:

  • Confirm client satisfaction.
  • Ask for permission to discuss referrals.
  • Help them identify potential referral names.
  • Inquire about their comfort in making an introduction.
  • Coach them on how to introduce you.
  • Express gratitude once the introduction is completed.


After growing existing clients, referrals can represent your next most fertile ground for creating new opportunities.

Intentional Networking:


Intentional Networking Basics: 

This section focuses on building a strong network strategically.


Networking Activities:

Attend Networking Events: 

Attend events relevant to your industry or target market to meet potential network partners.

Conduct One-on-One's: 

Engage in one-on-one meetings with individuals who can potentially refer you.

Make Introductions for Networking Partner: 

Help your network partners by introducing them to potential clients or contacts.

Request Introductions: 

Don't hesitate to ask for introductions from your network.


Ideal Networking Partners:

Identify industries and companies that benefit when you get business, as these can be potential network partners.


Explore win-win alliances that can help both parties maximize aspects of their business.


Consider individuals or businesses that you trust and who trust you; they can refer you to their contacts.

Build a solid LinkedIn Network: 

LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for professional networking. Ensure your network is of high quality.


Sample Networking Strategy:

2-3 "Open" Networks: 

These are broader networks, including key industry associations, alumni associations, and special interest groups. Target these based on your Ideal Client Profile and Ideal Network Partner Profile.

1 "Closed" Network: 

This is a more specific and exclusive network comprising your Strategic Centers of Influence. It represents a select group of individuals or organizations who can significantly influence your business.


Overall, this bucket emphasizes the importance of nurturing relationships and leveraging referrals and intentional networking to generate new opportunities and build a strong sales pipeline. It's about creating a network of advocates and partners who can help you achieve your sales goals.

Strategic Centers of Influence

Strategic Centers of Influence are the best of your best Ideal Networking Partners.  Who are your top 5-20 Network Partners out of those networks? They are your Most Valuable Network Connections. They regularly interact with your Ideal Prospect. The Like and Trust You. Your Prospects Like and Trust them

Be intentional about networking with these contacts and exchanging introductions. 

  • Connect them with potential prospects and networking partners such as your clients, potential networking partners and prospects.
  • Consider Linked Networking Process for Making Introduction using LinkedIn Sales NavigatorSearch Tool
  • Agree on frequency with the Strategic Center of Influence e.g every 90 days.
  • Make LinkedIn Recommendations on their LinkedIn Profile
  • Add Comments/Share LinkedIn Posts
  • Host/share their content such as Articles on your website/blog or host them on webinars/podcasts

When partnering with your Strategic Centers of Influence, be genuine and authentic, seek ways to help, share areas of expertise that can be helpful, remind them of problems you solve and stay top of mind.


Request Introductions from Strategic Centers of Influence

  • Consider the process in Using CAPS and Asking for Referrals. 
  • Consider Linked Networking Process for Requesting Introduction using LinkedIn Sales NavigatorSearch Tool. 
  • Agree on frequency with the Strategic Center of Influence e.g every 90 days.


After referrals, strategic centers of influence represent the most fertile ground for creating new opportunities.

Linked Networking

Less than six months after our company website went live, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. At that time, we had one recurring paid client and did some spot project work. I was about to face 8 and ½ weeks of daily radiation treatments and dealing with the impact of those treatments.  We had no room for error and we put all of our eggs into a prospecting process that I now call Linked Networking.  Four months later we had achieved our first year goal for Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR).  We successfully added one or more new recurring revenue clients per month for six months. We unlocked a code of repeatable revenue growth for the business. When we engage in the Linked Networking process, our consulting business grows. When we don’t, it remains flat or declines.

Here are the steps of the original Linked Networking Process in early 2013.

  • ID Demographics for Ideal Prospect Profile
  • Build a solid LinkedIn Network
  • Use LinkedIn Advanced Search to build Prospect Lists
  • Conduct Daily/Weekly Behaviors to request introductions
  • Conduct 1st Connection Campaign
  • Conduct 2nd Connection Campaign (Follow-up to introduction)

This was prior to the days of “Linked Selling” and the practice of people blindly requesting LinkedIn connections. In 2013, it was common to connect with people you actually knew.

My tools were “primitive”.


LinkedIn Advanced Search

 Sales Navigator was not in production yet and its 2014 launched product initially  offered little value to my process over Advanced Search in LinkedIn. Today LinkedIn Sales Navigator is table stakes for my process


I used it because I owned the CD and did not have to invest any dollars in the product to get started.  My process evolved over a few CRMs until landing on HubSpot over five years ago.

SalesLoft Prospector

SalesLoft Prospector helped me find email addresses on my LinkedIn searches until they shut the product down. LeadiQ is an example of today’s version of SalesLoft prospector.

Handwritten thank you cards, armed with a $5 Starbucks gift card

Handwritten thank you cards, armed with a $5 Starbucks gift card, were my appreciation for anyone that made an introduction on my behalf, regardless of the outcome.


The basic concept of the process was this:

  • Search for Ideal Prospects on LinkedIn that were 2nd Connections
  • Find a common 1st connection and request an introduction
  • Follow-up the introduction to see if there was a customer fit.

The original value of Linked Networking was:

  • Build warm leads from your network
  • Invest your network in your business
  • “Reconnect” with selected “cool” 1st connections
  • Build your brand with your network
  • Prospect during pay time or non pay time


Things happened over the years. 


The real Value of Linked Networking became:

  • Identify 1st Connections that are connected to your prospects
  • Invest your network in your business
  • Build your brand with your network
  • They made their own introductions


Over the years, I sought ways to automate the process. At one point, the process became so “automated” that its effectiveness waned.  It taught me the importance of being genuine and authentic.


So today’s process looks like this:

  • ID Demographics for Ideal Prospect Profile
  • Build a solid LinkedIn Network
  • Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to build Prospect Lists
  • Conduct Daily/Weekly Behaviors to seek one-on-one Zoom calls with selected 1st connections
  • Conduct 1st Connection Campaign
    • Use a LN 1st Conn Networking Sequence
  • Conduct One-On-One with selected 1st Connections (connected to 2nd Connection prospects)
  • Follow-up with 1st and 2nd Connections after introduction to 2nd Connection


After strategic centers of influence, Linked Networking 1st Connections  represent the most fertile ground for creating new opportunities.


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November 24th, 2023|Categories: | |

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