When it comes to referrals, the more specific you are, the more successful you’ll be.

When I ask salespeople how I can help them with prospecting—who they’re looking for—they begin with “Anyone who…” “Anyone?” I’m confused. I don’t know who “anyone” is.

Every salesperson recognizes their Ideal Clients. You know who they are. Don’t you love it when you work with your Ideal Client? They value what you offer, communicate well, are forward thinking, reasonable, have a good sense of humor, and give you the time, money, and resources to make any project successful. Your task is to clone your Ideal Clients into more and more great sales.

When we work with our Ideal Client, our sales time collapses, productivity soars, deals are larger, and these clients refer us to other Ideal Clients.


Find Your Ideal Client

The best way to locate your Ideal Client is to ask your current clients to refer you. (Yes, you want someone just like them.) The second best way is to ask your network to refer you.  In either case, you must be specific. The more specifically you describe your Ideal Client, the easier it is for your Referral Source—current client or network—to think of and identify the perfect referral for you.

Think: Specific

Being specific is counter-intuitive. Many of my clients believe the wider the net they cast, the more clients they reel in. The exact opposite is true.


Think of yourself as a sketch artist: the more color, lines, and detail you present, the easier it becomes for others to envision, recognize, and identify your Ideal Client and refer them to you.

Think of a time when you looked at paintings in a museum. (With no judgment about modern vs. classic art or artist, I offer the following thought.) Perhaps you viewed, the “blue wall”—the modern painting, all one color, and mused about how you could paint the exact same thing. Perhaps you pondered what the “blue wall” meant. The artist’s “blue wall” is open to a wide and varied interpretation. Then, perhaps, you viewed a more specifically representative painting, a Rembrandt or a Vermeer. The artist’s intention was defined. You knew exactly what you were looking at, with very little interpretation. You identified people, what they were doing, and perhaps what they were feeling.

Art is often interpretive. In order for referrals to work, you need to do the interpreting for your Referral Source. You need to be specific, and to tell the story yourself.

Create the Profile

For some salespeople, being super-specific in describing their Ideal Client feels confining. It’s as if they’re leaving good business on the table. Sales pros often think that if you don’t mention everything you offer you’ll miss a sale. The opposite is true.

The more specifically you describe your Ideal Client, the easier it becomes to receive a perfect referral. As you consider your business-development strategies, review these categories:

  • Industry: In what industries is your expertise? Where do you have a track record? In what vertical do you want to expand?
  • Geography: Where is your ideal geography? (Regions within the United States, North America, Europe, Asia, Middle East, or Africa, for example.)
  • Company Size: What size company is the best fit for you sales offerings?
  • Business Unit or Function: What group of people within the company are your ideal prospects-CEOs, CIOs, COOs, HR employees, or sales or marketing teams?
  • Type of Person: Identify the personality traits of your Ideal Client.
  • Situation/Need: What specific business problem do you address?

…you get the idea.

As an example, it’s too broad to say you want to meet VPs of Sales. In my case, I want to meet VPs of Sales with a technology company, software specifically, who have a re-seller channel, headquartered in Northern California, and hold sales meetings for their reseller partners. I can get even more granular if I stated the names of companies where I want an introduction.

Guess who I meet? You got it. Exactly those people. It’s not difficult to find my Ideal Client, and they know others just like themselves. Referrals to your Ideal Client are within your reach.

We get what we ask for, so ask for exactly what you want and get amazing referrals!