Everyone has heard of the concept of Six Degrees of Separation—the idea that through our networks of acquaintances, none of us is more than 6 steps removed from everyone else on the planet. I saw a great TV documentary a couple of years ago called "The Human Chain" that set out to prove (or disprove) that theory.
The producers asked two very well-to-do people in New York City to try to locate a man neither of them knew, using only social contacts. The only thing they were given was his name and photograph and the information that he lived in Brooklyn—which every New Yorker knows can be very far removed from the Upper East and Upper West sides of Manhattan, where the subjects lived—and that he was a boxer at a particular gym. They were not allowed to Google him or use any other means of research to find him. The only way they were allowed to seek him out was through their existing social networks—by asking people they knew who they thought might be able to lead them in the right direction.
As it turned out, both subjects managed to get introduced to this young man within two days. One turned out to be four degrees removed from their target—the other, five.
Then, the producers asked the young man to do the same thing in reverse: find a way to use his existing network to get introduced to a Broadway dancer who was starring in "A Chorus Line." He never thought he would be able to do it—but as it turned out, he was also able to accomplish the task within 4 social hops.
It was a fascinating show. One of the biggest take-homes for me is that you simply can't make assumptions about who people know. Advisors frequently make the mistake of assuming that only wealthy clients can introduce them to other wealthy people. That is a fallacy. In fact, Horsesmouth has found that advisors' best referrals often come from their "C" clients. We all know a LOT of people. If I challenged you right now to find a connection through your existing network to a prominent or high-profile person in your community, I will almost guarantee that you could think of a pathway to get you there within just a few leaps.
But the only way you will ever uncover these connections is by "mapping the network" of your clients and other referral sources. A network map lets you visualize who your client knows, so you can plan your next move. If you know who your clients know, you can both uncover great new referral possibilities AND find connections through your clients to people you already know you want to meet.
You know the old saying that you can't map a route if you don't know your destination? Likewise, you can't get a steady stream of high-quality referrals if you don't understand who you want to meet, why you want to meet them, and who you know who might be able to introduce you to those types of prospects.
This is the heart of the Automatic Referrals process: gathering information about who your clients know, identifying potential prospects within those networks, and then asking for introductions to those people. Do your homework. Take your time. Find out who your clients know. Then you can identify the acquaintances you want to meet—and ask your clients to introduce you.