You’ve already embraced the notion that the best way to build your business is through referrals. After this solid foundation come the four cornerstones of your referral-based business. If you master any one of these cornerstones, you’ll be well on your way to increasing your business through referrals. If you master all four, you will have a steady and predictable flow of high-quality new business coming your way.

The first cornerstone: Enhance your referability. You must serve your clients consistently well. Enough companies are providing such great service these days that the service you provide will be measured by what your clients know you are capable of providing. Have an initial process that not only helps you “make the sale” but makes you referable at the same time. Also, develop and use a client-service model that drives your behavior. Your clients can tell the difference if you have a plan that helps you determine when and for what reason you contact them vs. “winging it.”

The second cornerstone: Network strategically. Not all your referrals need to come from satisfied clients. Many can come from the relationships you nurture with people who may never become your clients: CPAs, attorneys, human resource directors, clergy, real estate agents and more.

“Networking” is an overused term that few people are very good at. One reason why networking does not produce the results people want is because most advisors are not very strategic in their approach. Your job is to identify the types of people who make good “centers of influence” for your business and then systematically meet and grow relationships with these people. And never assume you are referable in someone else’s eyes. Ask them, “What do you need to know about me and the work I do to feel comfortable referring people to me?”

The third cornerstone: Prospect for introductions. Promote the referral process by planting seeds with your clients, asking for referrals, and receiving the referrals you get in such a way that it encourages even more referrals from your clients. I teach a client-centered approach to asking for referrals, rather than being advisor-centered, where you tell your clients you get baid by referrals or you build your business by referrals. Make the request all about the value you provide to your clients and the value you might bring to people they care about.

The fourth cornerstone: Target niche markets. Narrowing your marketing focus to one or two well-defined niches makes it much easier to create a reputation and will substantially increase your referral business. A good niche can be small-business owners/executives in a specific industry. Another good niche can be employees within a large company. In either case, you become the advisor of choice.

Editor’s Note: The preceding article was adapted from “A Referral-Based Business That’s Built to Last,” which ran in the November 2009 issue of Life Insurance Selling. Click here to read the whole article.

To read last week’s Words from the Wise, click here.

For more on referrals, see:

How to get referrals from CPAs: 6 components of value

A referral success story everyone can learn from

Practice the Golden Rule of referral giving