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Posted on Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 2 a.m.

Asking for referrals: Narrow your focus, increase your business

By Greg Peters


"If you chase two rabbits, you will lose them both."
- Native American saying

Photo by Flickr user ellenm1

Last time we talked about how, when you have the opportunity to express a desire for a referral, a lack of specificity can make it hard for your networking partners to help you. In fact, it might end up being so hard that they decide that the whole thing is just a bad idea and will end up not referring anyone to you after all.

So, how do you make your referral requests more specific?

The first thing you can do is focus on your target market. One of the best ways to narrow that down is to look at your current and former customers.

Ask yourself a few questions. Who were your best customers? Who were the most fun or satisfying to work with? Who was the most profitable? Make a few lists to answer these questions. If you can find one or two who are on all of the lists, that's even better.

I'm assuming that if you have particular clients who are profitable and/or enjoyable to work with, you might like more who are similar. Start looking at some of the attributes of these folks. Ask more questions:

  • Are they local, regional, national or global?
  • Are they individuals or companies?
  • Are they nonprofits, academics, small businesses or Fortune 500 organizations?
  • Are they within particular industries?
  • Has something happened to them recently (good or bad)?
  • Is something going to be happening to them soon (good or bad)?
  • What are their short-, medium- and/or long-term goals?
  • How long has the company been in business?
  • Are they a startup, growth stage, mature or declining company?
  • How many employees?
  • How much revenue?
  • Publicly traded? Privately held? Family business?
  • If they are individuals, what is their age range?
  • How many members of their family?
  • Do they own a house, a condominium, or do they rent an apartment?
  • How many cars do they have? What make, model and year?
  • Do they live in the city, the suburbs or out in the country?

The more closely you can define what makes your ideal client unique, the better able you will be to describe that client to a networking partner with the purpose of meeting more like that.

Next time, we'll take the answers to these questions and see what a difference a little specificity makes.

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



Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 3:41 p.m.

Hi Greg, This is great advice on how to focus in on your target market and identify those with whom you have a really good fit. Also, regardless of the origin, the saying vividly supports your point. Thanks for posting.

Greg Peters

Mon, Dec 5, 2011 : 2:11 a.m.

Hi, Beth Thanks for taking the time to read my article and comment. Having a focused target market is kind of at the base of much of good efficient networking. Glad you found the process to be helpful. Greg


Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

On the topic of the caption: "Native American saying"? Seriously? What tribe has that as a saying?

Greg Peters

Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 2:55 a.m.

Hi, Kozmund Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my article. Regarding the origins of the saying, your comment prompted me to do some research (OK, so I did a Google search). From what I found, the quote is variously attributed to "a Native American saying", "a Russian proverb", "Anonymous", and "Unknown". In those areas where it was attributed as a Native American saying, it had no further details regarding the specific tribe. Of course, I suppose if I'm going to have a saying associated with an article on being specific, then I should have followed my own advice. If you should happen to discover a more specific origin of the quote, please send it my way. Thanks to your comments, I now really want to know. Thanks again.