If you are an IT consultant or are committed to your Referrals-as-a-Service side business, you know that it is important to be familiar with the products available to your clients and prospects for them to trust your opinion. No one wants a recommendation for an outdated business tool when there is so much change in the industry.

Here’s how to stay current on the tech news so you can stay on the top of your clients’ list of trusted advisors.

1. Partner with the products you trust and use.

A lot of tech companies have partner programs that allow you to profit from recommending their products. For example, the Citrix SaaS Advisor Program gives out 20 percent of any sale you refer to their team and has nine different products you can refer. These types of programs not only make you extra cash with little extra effort but also legitimize your recommendations.

When you recommend a product based on your experience using it, your opinion becomes a trusted source for your colleague. But let’s take it up a notch — why not get a partner logo in your email signature? Or have a dedicated account manager that is your partner in crime in working with your referral prospects? That way you come off looking professional and connected.

Tip: Don’t just join one program — look for others so you can have a suite of complementary products on hand to provide a comprehensive solution for your prospect’s needs.

2. Stay relevant.

Recommending products for commission is easy. But if you want to become a trusted advisor for your clients, you can’t skate by on company and product information from 2009. Keep an ear to the ground for product updates and announcements so you have a good understanding of not just one company or product but the current tech landscape. This will take you from questions like “Hey, do you think I should I buy this, or this?” to “Who do you think is going to be the next big thing in this industry?”

Sounds great, right? But how do you do it? How can you possibly keep up with all the information out there?

3. Develop a system.

A little effort goes a long way. You still have a day job, so devote just a chunk of your time to catching up. You’ll end up knowing more than you think you would. Start by blocking off a half hour on a day that usually isn’t too busy for you — perhaps Friday afternoons — to do a sweep of tech sites for new releases, product reviews and relevant news. This way you won’t waste time every day going down the rabbit hole of blogs and social media, and you can concentrate on your work — all while staying informed.

For places to check, make a list of blogs, business or tech pages of major news outlets and the social media pages of companies and colleagues you follow.

For example, TechCrunch can keep you pretty up to date on the most important tech news. LinkedIn groups are also a great way to stay plugged in. Here is a list of some great IT LinkedIn groups to start with.

Find other sites that are specific to your industry and that you enjoy reading — begin exploring, and soon you’ll have a tailored list of sites you know will give you what you need.

4. Share the news.

Once you find a story that is relevant to your network of clients and prospects, share it! Concentrate on the social media outlets that you think your prospects or clients use the most (LinkedIn is a great place to start). It could be a new feature of a product you refer, an acquisition or a list of tips for people in your industry.

Some partner programs have affiliate links you can include in your posts to reel in more leads — or you can follow up with those that comment on your post to try and engage them in a conversation (that could eventually lead to a big commission check).

5. Refer leads.

Now that you have all sorts of tech knowledge, use these talking points to uncover referral opportunities. You can mention the story you read about a new product in your industry, then mention how much you like the solution you’re currently using. Keep them talking and uncover the needs they have in their daily workflow. Remember, anyone could be a potential prospect — and just one lead could turn into an unexpected bonus.

Once you get used to bringing up the products you’ve partnered with in your daily conversations, you can establish a profitable side business with little effort on your part. 

Taking a little time out of your weekly routine to learn about your industry will not only benefit your career and business but make you extra money, too! If you have other ideas or tips for staying relevant as a trusted tech advisor, please share them with us.