The Formula for Referral Success -- Leverage Networking Efforts for Business Success

If you want to leverage your networking time and efforts, stop looking for prospects at networking events and start looking for referral partners.
Pretty simple... right?  But not as easy as it sounds. 
Did you know that prospective clients who are referred to you are more likely to become your customers than any found through other prospecting methods? 
The referral endorsement carries so much credibility that referred prospects are less likely to shop for the lowest price, they ask fewer questions about your expertise, and typically come to a decision more quickly.
So it makes good business sense to work at building solid referral partners.  But what do you look for in finding a referral partner? 
Here's my formula  --  KLT + U + O = referral success.
KLT = Know... Like...Trust... 
One of the most critical aspects to gain more referrals is building the relationship. Generally, the foundation of most relationships is the KLT factor.  
A referral partner must KNOW you and know about your services or products. 
You need to be LIKED by them. Think about those in your network that you offer or extend help to - I bet that generally you like them. 
If you feel you're a bit light on likeability, pick up Tim Sanders book "the Likeability Factor". It's an easy read that shares simple strategies to raise you "L-Factor". Tim discusses the 4 main elements of likeability as - friendliness, relevance, empathy & realness. The book also covers what you need to do to raise your score - certainly a worthwhile pursuit for everyone.
And finally, a referral partner needs to TRUST that you can deliver the service or product and that you'll take care of their referral in a professional manner. 
Think for yourself, when you refer someone you're putting your stamp of approval on them. If the referral doesn't work out it reflects back on you and your reputation is on the line. 
U = Understand
This takes simply "knowing you" much deeper. I've found the best referral partners are those who also understand my business. They have a clear understanding about my features and benefits so they can better assess whom to refer to me.
It can be disappointing when you receive a referral but then the fit just isn't there - sort of like a round peg in a small square hole. You know they thought of you and tried but... nope, the prospect didn't match up. 
If you want more referrals from your referral partners you'll need to make it easy for them - give them the tools (and training) they need. 
Work at educating referral partners on your business, what you do, the problems you solve, why people buy from you, how to find solid prospects, what to say, how to pass the referral and even consider giving them some tools like brochures, biz cards, you can even write out emails or introduction scripts if that's what it takes.
I've found that it's not that people don't want to refer you, but often it's that they really don't know how to make those connections.  Ask them, 'Is there anything else you need to feel confident in referring people to me?' Then probe deeply and listen to what they say.
O = Opportunity
Yes, even if someone has the KLT & U but if they don't have opportunity, you'll likely get minimal, if any, solid referrals. Your partners must have the opportunity to connect with your desired prospects.
Look for people who know or are in industries that service the same prospects you do. Not sure who? Just ask your ideal clients what other services they regularly purchase to give you a few solid leads - heck, even ask your clients to introduce you to some of their favorite other service providers. 
So if you want more business start by finding and nurturing more referral partners - its well worth the effort!


Great Advice

Thanks Sue, great post, all the elements are needed for success, you nailed it.