As a professional, we’ve all been taught (probably from day one in the job) that the best way to generate new business is by referral. After all, some recent research by the Hinge Research Institute found that 70% of people will ask a friend for a recommendation if they need the services of a professional. However, what many professionals, particularly lawyers and accountants, have not sussed, is how to describe what they do in a way which helps unlock the route to a steady stream of referrals from their network. Indeed, listen into any conversation at a professional networking event and you will hear a huge amount of jargon and marketing weaselly words, such as:

I work with high net worth individuals. We specialise in working with SMEs. We do workplace enrichment programmes. We help our clients with their life planning. We help £2-20 million companies who need a part time FD. We help clients who are in transition. It’s not easy to pinpoint what I do, as most pieces of work are customised to each individual client.

Whilst these words may actually mean a lot to you and your peers (or not as the case may be), I bet they don’t mean anything to your introducers, network or clients. After all, how many business owners do you know who think of themselves as a £2-20 million business, probably in need of a part time FD? Or a person who talks about being in transition? Or says they need help with their life planning? You may find it useful to spend some time talking with your existing clients and ask them some questions, e.g. 1) what have I helped you do? 2) before we worked together what challenges were you facing? 3) what do you see as the value that our working relationship has brought to you? Then use these answers to add in the blanks to these sentence:

1) I help __________ to do ___________ 2) typical phrases you will hear if my services are needed include _________ 3) things you will see if my services are included include ____________

Challenge yourself to strip away any industry or technical jargon. For example most contractors may not know they don’t want to fall foul of IR35, but definitely know they don’t want to risk paying NI and being taxed as if they are an employee.

In summary,

If you want to get more referrals from your network, quit with the jargon and marketing words. Instead use, simple easy terms that your introducers can easily understand and spot.

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