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Life Health > Running Your Business

The 20/20 referral method

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Forty-five-year veteran of sales and marketing, speaker and blogger Bruce Etherington says prospecting his top 20 clients has been his most successful method for generating referrals. He takes the top 20 percent of his clients and then finds the top 20 of that top 20 percent. Then, he calls those clients and asks them to lunch.

Etherington says, “While you are breaking bread, you ask your ‘top 20 client’ about his favorite subject – himself – and get caught up on what’s really happening in his life.”

Etherington suggests a dialogue such as: “So, John, what’s new? It’s been a while since we last talked. I just want you to know that you are a special client. What I would like to do over the years ahead is to get to know you better. Because, as we both know, there’s a lot more to life than business. So how’s your family, business, hobbies, health, friends, etc.?”

At the end of the meeting, as you pick up the check, you say:

“John, as you know, I’m in a people business. I rely solely upon my clients for reference to first-class quality people like you, with whom to talk. While I don’t expect you’ll know anyone who’s directly in the market for my products and services, I do expect you will associate with people, who, like yourself, possess three basic fundamental characteristics.

“They are responsible family and business people, like you. They have the ability to make a decision based upon fact, as you do. They have outstanding economic growth potential, just like you.”

Then, you say, “So, John, who are your three best friends? I’d like to meet them.”

This method works well because friends trust friends, and that’s the best kind of referral to receive. Prospects always make the time to meet with someone their friends highly recommend.

Bruce Ethetington is an insurance sales and marketing speaker, 40-year-member of the Million Dollar Round Table, and founding member and past chair of Top of the Table. For more information, go to Bruce’s blog at

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