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Posted on Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 6 a.m.

Asking for referrals: Get rid of 'anybody'

By Greg Peters


We can't network with "everybody."

Photo by Sreejith K

One of the benefits of good networking practice is that, every once in a while, you get to tell someone else about who would be a good referral for you. This is your big opportunity. This is when the work of creating a network starts to pay off.

Don't mess it up.

Often when people describe their ideal client, they make the mistake of using the word "anybody." The problem with that is that "anybody" reminds everybody of nobody. Oh, by the way, the words "somebody," "everybody," "people" and all other such similar words don't actually help either.

If I ask you who your ideal client is and you answer anything that sounds remotely like:

  • My ideal client is anybody who needs a website.
  • My ideal client is somebody who wants a new car.
  • My ideal client is everybody who lives in southeast Michigan.

Then, forgive me, but you are making it too hard for me. You are expecting me to figure out your business so I know exactly who would be good for you. I mean, I'm always happy to help, but I have my own business to run.

If you really want to help your referral partners help you, then you need to start asking some refining questions about your "ideal client."

"Wait, just a minute!" I can hear you say, "I can help anybody who needs a website. I don't want to turn anyone away."

Great. I'm happy to hear that. You won't have to turn anyone away. When I say "ideal" client I don't mean who you can help, but rather who you would prefer to help — for whatever reason.

In the next column,  we'll talk about the narrowing process.

Greg Peters, founder of The Reluctant Networker LLC, writes, speaks and coaches about good networking practice. For more tips that can help your connections count, go to