Can you say “no” to referral prospects?

It is critical to learn to say "no" to referral prospects who don’t fit your business model.

Of course, if you’re brand new in this business, you probably want opportunities to “practice” running appointments, so you don’t turn down much. But at some point, everyone in this business needs to decide who they serve the best (or who they want to serve the best) and who they don’t serve.

Here are some rules of thumb to go by:

  1. Be crystal clear on who fits your business and who doesn’t.
  2. Make a commitment to yourself to only take business that DOES fit – with the possible exception of close family members of your ‘A’ clients.
  3. Have someone in place (associate, team member, or colleague) who can take on prospects that don’t fit.
  4. Teach your ‘A’ clients and Centers of Influence who your practice is geared to serve (who you serve the best).
  5. If a client gives you a referral, qualify them for your practice before calling them.
  6. If you didn’t do #5, or if the prospect calls you, qualify them over the phone.
  7. Get back to your client or COI what happened – but be careful. Do not reveal proprietary information to the referral source. Say something like, “George and I have a nice conversation. We determined that the timing was not right for me to meet with him at this time. However, I truly appreciate the trust you displayed in me through this introduction.” At a later date, educate your client on who your practice is designed to serve the best.

Bottom line:

  1. If a prospect is not right for your business model, you are not the right person for them.
  2. If you keep taking clients who don’t fit your business model, you won’t have the time to locate and serve the clients who do.

If you have any result-producing tips you’d like to share with Bill Cates, please send them to

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