How To Get All the Clients You Need from People You Already Know

If you are a little intimidated by the term “networking,” I have good news for you.

Because what I’m about to tell you isn’t about your traditional networking.

You won’t be doing any cold-calling, handing out business cards to strangers at gatherings, or sending out blind letters to complete strangers.

You see, the other day I read a true story about two friends, Aly and Ilana.

Ilana, who was going to L.A. to look for a job, confided in Aly that she was feeling pretty lost, alone, and nervous. She said she didn’t know anyone and didn’t have any connections.

Aly’s response: “No problem … Power of Who!”

What Aly was referring to is that she knew “WHO” could help Ilana.

The next day, Ilana sat down and explained her goals and dreams to Bob, the “Who” that Aly referred her to. Bob realized he knew people in L.A. and in three days’ time was able to set up five interviews for Ilana within her field of dreams. In addition, Bob’s friends were able to get Ilana eight more interviews the week that she was in L.A.

Ilana got five job offers as a result of her interviews. Plus, two companies bid on her right up until the end before she chose the job she wanted.

As I read this story in Bob Beaudine’s book, The Power of Who, I immediately recognized I had personally experienced the “Power of Who” myself.

More important, it made me realize that I was neglecting the very network of people who could help me grow my copywriting business the most …

The people I already knew.

As I started to think back on where my business had come from up to this point, I realized 90% of my paying jobs were a result of referrals from friends or friends of friends … yet I was focusing 90% of my networking efforts on reaching out to complete strangers.

In reading The Power of Who, it suddenly made sense why most of my work would come from referrals …

 … because according to Bob Beaudine, president and CEO of Eastman & Beaudine, the top sports/entertainment executive search firm, eighty percent of jobs are never advertised because personal references from friends or friends of friends make the biggest impact on who gets the job.

All of a sudden, it gave new meaning to Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus’ quote, “Your wealth is where your friends are.”

I thought back to when I started copywriting. I had no samples, no website, and yet I landed a $60,000 project based on the recommendation of a friend who knew nothing about copywriting. He just knew of my work ethic and character along with what I was looking for because I had reached out to him with specifics about my freelance copywriting search. Therefore, when opportunity arose, he referred me.

Is it possible someone you already know, who likes you, can actually help you too?

Beaudine resoundingly says YES! And I would have to agree. Because the truth is … everyone has what Beaudine calls a “Who” network of friends. These are the people you’ve built up relationships with over many years who care about you, share your values … and if asked, would help you. They want you to achieve your goals.

In fact, the foundation of an organized, structured, and successful networking system is people you already know.

By focusing on this circle, you’ll get introductions from people who know you, many of which won’t ask you for samples or a website address either.

In fact, you’ll soon discover that people from all walks of life are willing to help you – provided they can.

Today, I’m going to share with you Beaudine’s strategy along with a simple system that will help you create a never-ending network of referrals. This system will also make it easy for people to help you and requires very little of their time.

You already know everyone you need to know

Beaudine says, “You already know everyone you need to know,” and offers a plan based on a time-tested unique approach his firm has used with repeated success time and time again for over forty years.

He says, “The real problem of finding your dream or achieving that goal isn’t about who you don’t know, but whom you’ve neglected.”

You see, most people send emails to people they don’t know and network outside what Beaudine calls your “Who friends” thinking “success will be found ‘out there’ somewhere.”

He says this is a false notion because strangers and acquaintances don’t care about your goals unless they perceive a benefit for themselves.

That’s not to say strangers won’t treat you with courtesy and kindness. They usually will. But …

Your friends truly care about your goals and dreams and want to help you achieve them.

If you feel a bit uncomfortable asking for help from your friends, realize this isn’t unusual. Often we feel embarrassed or let pride get in our way. But think if the situation was reversed. Wouldn’t you want to help them?

Of course, I’m not talking about calling up a friend and saying, “I’m looking for some copywriting clients; do you know anyone who needs copy for a website or brochure?” or anything like that. Often, requests like this where you jump right to the “job” part get nothing more than an assurance that the friend will get back to you if something comes to mind.

Instead, Beaudine proposes something he calls …

The “100/40 Strategy”

The “100/40 Strategy” has been described as “where ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ meets your Dream Search.” It’s a philosophy that works in every area of your life and is such a solid strategy that if you use it, Beaudine says, “it’s predictable” and “a successful outcome is a foregone conclusion.”

Beaudine breaks it down like this:

“The first set of numbers (1-100) is about relationships. The second set (1-40) is about whatever it is you’re after.” He says not to get hung up on the numbers, meaning if you don’t have 100 on your “Who” list or 40 on your “What” list, that’s okay. It will be different for every person.

Step One: Make a list of your “Who.”

This is where you come up with 1-100 people you know. As you read about these groups, think about the people in your life and also think back on when people have helped you before. You might identify an advocate or an ally you didn’t recognize before.

The big source of names will come from three areas: Your family; social contacts such as neighbors, clubs, fraternities, service organizations, sports activities, church, and school; and business contacts such as co-workers, superiors, suppliers, customers/clients, and sources such as your doctors, attorney, accountant, dentist, and other service professionals you use.

Beaudine identifies six “spheres” which are:

  1. The Inner Circle: These are your closest friends and your greatest influence. These are people you have “a heart connection” with. Beaudine calls this the “12-3-1” because he says you will have around 12 in this group with three that you have a deeper level of communication and one who is your best friend.
  2. Who Friends: This group is your “Inner Circle” expanded. It’s just that the time and opportunity to see them keeps them from being a part of your inner circle.
  3. Allies: These are people you associate with, connect with, or touch through your Inner Circle or your “Who” friends. Beaudine says from time to time your “Who” friends and Inner Circle open up their world and invite you in, giving you access to allies in times of need.
  4. Advocates: Beaudine identifies this group as “people you don’t really know who speak or write in support or defense of you.” They open doors for you with a recommendation or reference. Beaudine tells a story about how someone who saw him speak recommended him. This is an advocate. The guy didn’t know Beaudine, but because Bob made a good impression, this advocate recommended him for a job. He says people are watching you and it’s “the personal impression you make that people remember.”
  5. Acquaintances: These are less intimate relationships than with your friends. Beaudine says, “One of the biggest mistakes people make is creating the illusion of friendship with people who are really only mere acquaintances.” Similarly, he tells a story to illustrate that you may have true friends among your acquaintances and not recognize them as friends. How can you tell the difference? Beaudine says, “Real friends are as different from acquaintances as diamonds are different from crystals. If you’re not discerning, you will look but not see.” He says to look around the acquaintances in your life and see if perhaps you’ve been overlooking key relationships, saying, “The really scary thought is that you could be standing in the midst of your own diamond stream and not see it.”
  6. Fans: Beaudine says fans, “Know of you, have encountered you professionally or socially, have read something about you, or seen you perform publicly,” but are “one degree removed.”

Step Two: Make a list of “What” you want your “Who” to help you with.

This step consists of two parts. First, you want to identify specifically what you want to do and accomplish. Beaudine says this list will serve as “an inventory tool, a simple to-do list that will act as a daily reminder for whatever it is you want to reach, achieve, accomplish or fulfill.”

Next, you will take each item from your list and do some research. This is where the 1-40 part of the strategy comes in. The key is to identify whom you need to talk to or other specifics because “people will be more willing to assist you if they know you’ve done your research.” Beaudine also says, “When pursuing dreams and goals, it’s all about preparation, preparation, preparation.”

For example, say you want to reach copywriting clients who work in the fitness industry, have a website, and do email marketing.

You would do research to find companies that fit your “ideal” client. Make a list of 1-40 organizations and people you would like to know that fit your ideal client description.

Directories, associations, and websites are examples of resources you can use to find this information.

Remember, be exact about what you want. Beaudine says dream seekers too often never decide what they want and, as a result, settle for whatever comes along because it’s convenient.

To avoid settling, Beaudine says to do the research and get specific about what you are looking for.

As George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Take care to get what you like or you will be forced to like what you get.”

Step Three: Contact your “Who” to ask for help.

It’s important not to prejudge the importance or unimportance of someone you know or someone you are referred to when making contact. You never know who can help.

Beaudine says, “Most people never get what they want for three simple reasons.”

  1. “They don’t ask for it.”
  2. “When they do ask, they ask the wrong people.”
  3. “When they do ask for help, they ask too vaguely.”

While Beaudine doesn’t give suggestions on how to reach out to your connections, based on my experience, here are my recommendations.

For your closer, inner-circle friends, get together with them face to face or by phone. Let them know you’d like to ask for their help with something and whether they could spare some time to talk to you. Bring your list of 40 with you and explain what it is you want. Show them your list and ask if they might have any contacts that could give you an introduction to someone on your list.

For people who are more removed than your inner circle, send a short, one-page letter outlining what it is you need help with.

By sending a letter first, you give your contact a chance to think about whom he or she might know without putting them on the spot, which, in my experience, gets much better results than a phone call out of the blue.

You’ll want to start your letter out by giving a brief description of what you do and why you need their assistance, followed by the line, “I am writing to ask for your assistance in my search.”

In the next paragraph, say something like, “Here is where I need your help. Unlocking the door to a new client is identifying the right companies and then presenting yourself. What I need are introductions to people at the companies I’ve identified or to companies similar to them where I can help increase their results.”

In the third paragraph, give a brief, one-sentence overview of how you can help these companies, followed by bullet points outlining where you have been particularly successful. For example, you might list increasing web sales, improving search engine rankings, etc.

Close your letter by telling them you’ve enclosed a list of forty organizations and people you are trying to connect with. Ask them to give it some thought and to jot down any ideas of someone they might know who could help. Tell them their input is very important to you and that you could really use their help with your search efforts. Thank them for their anticipated assistance, and tell them you will call in a few days.

Include your list of organizations you’ve researched and any contact names you would like to be introduced to.

Step Four: Follow up.

Call your contact within a few days – just as you said you would in your letter. Ask him if he had a chance to look over your letter and your list of companies. Then wait to see what he says.

Beaudine says, “Even if a particular ‘Who’ friend can’t offer you a single name, listen clearly to what they have to say.” He says, “The answer to your dreams and goals could be hidden in one of these conversations.”

Don’t be discouraged either. If you have 100 people on your “Who” list and 40 names on your “What” list, that’s 4,000 possibilities. It only takes one connection. Plus, if someone doesn’t know someone on your list, they may know someone at a similar type of company.

Step Five: Make the Connection.

In many cases, your “Who” friends will make calls for you to set up the introduction. However, in other cases, especially as you get further out from your inner circle, you will start to collect names of people instead.

In these cases, again, a letter will give you the best chance for success because it gives busy people an opportunity to think about whom they might know.

Start your letter with the name of the person who is giving you the introduction. For example, you might say, “Cindy Cyr suggested I contact you thinking you would be an excellent source of some valuable information.”

Then you will follow a similar format as the letter outlined in Step Four above. There will be two main differences with this letter.

First, you’ll want to include a paragraph that says something like this: “I ask that you give some thought to friends in similar or related fields. Many times, they know individuals. My mission initially is gathering information because rarely does anyone have knowledge of an immediate need for a copywriting project. It’s been published that 80% of jobs are never advertised. The key to uncovering them is carefully sifting information from as many individuals as possible.”

Second, acknowledge they are busy in your closing. Say something like, “Mr. Contact, I realize you are busy. I’ll call you in a few days and would really appreciate it if we could talk for a few minutes."

Beaudine’s father once said, “Sales is always about making friends first because your friends will do business with you.”

By following the five steps above, investing in your friendships, and asking specifically for what you want, you’ll experience a transformational impact on your business.

Take the initiative to take extra care and cultivate the people on your “Who” list by getting re-involved in their lives. Invite them to lunch, send them a note, etc.

“Who” friends can move you into the real world of copywriting – and speed up the process in which strangers become your friends who want to do business with you.

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Published: May 9, 2011

8 Responses to “How To Get All the Clients You Need from People You Already Know”

  1. Cindy,

    Thanks for writing this post and congratulations to AWAI for posting it.

    Your article helps us in understanding some terrific ideas you have shared here.

    You have provided examples or illustrations--that helps in clarification. We appreciate it.

    It is true that most of the jobs out there are not advertised and are available only through networking.

    A lot of people without college degrees have made it big through finding the right support system.

    Goes the saying, It is not what you know, but who you know that counts.

    In the case of creative writing assignments or projects, I will be sure to try to tap into my personal and professional contacts first before contacting perfect strangers.

    That makes sense. Sometimes, you do not know what you have inside the palm of your hand because you never bother to open it and see what is inside. You tend to take your own contacts for granted.

    Cheers for opening my eyes to such possibilities. Way to go.

    Archan Mehta

  2. Thanks Archan--it was something I did in the beginning and then forgot about. Funny thing is when I looked back at where my clients have come from--my most lucrative and best clients have all come from people I knew. Good luck and I would love to hear about your success with this.

    Guest (Cindy Cyr)

  3. You're right, Cindy. We do tend to overlook the people we know. I know for a fact that some of my friends have no idea what I do for a living.

    Well, that's going to change!

    Thank you for this article!

    Kellie Craft

  4. Thanks, Cindy, for this outstanding article. I now have a plan and will follow through according to your suggestions. Thinking of the clients I have, they are from introductions, and personal contacts. Now I'm off to follow up on some other contacts from the different circles, and write that letter to them. Your advice was clear and practical and I certainly appreciated every word.

    Guest (Ann Jordan-Mills)

  5. Cindy,

    Nice work on this article. I can just see you shaking your head as you write this...wondering how you could have missed what was right in front of you. I know that's how I felt reading it.2 of my top 3 clients came from introductions. And several other single projects have come from referrals of friends and acquaintances.

    Sean McCool

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