If you’re like many business professionals, you get a lot of your business from referrals. You get them because you’re an expert at what you do and you provide excellent service. However, getting referrals is not that simple. While you know how great referrals are, you find it hard to get enough of them. The biggest reason I have found for why most people are not getting as many referrals as they could is because they do not have a powerful referral strategy.
Step 1 – Identify your best referral sources
Your best referral sources are those who are likely to hear about or witness a need for your services. So start by thinking about whom from your network will or will not likely encounter someone experiencing a problem you can solve. Your current clients are often good referral sources. Many have peers who have the same needs they do. They understand the benefits you provide and are motivated to make a match because they have a deep relationship with you, and often with the peer who has the need. Other likely referrers are professional service providers that also serve your audience—since they may be the first to hear about needs as they arise. For example, accountants often get referrals from lawyers who are assisting entrepreneurs start or sell a company, and vice versa.
Action step: You can also meet prospective referrers through professional trade associations and through colleagues. Get to know them and build relationships with them to lay the foundation for cross-referrals.
Step 2 – Let your network know what you do
Make sure your colleagues, clients, and customers fully understand all of your products and services. It amazes me how many people the average professional has in their network, yet how many of those contacts don’t truly understand all of the professional’s product or service offerings. This is both in their professional and personal life. Don’t believe me? Call one of your current customers and mention about one of your product offerings outside of what they are currently purchasing. Trust me more often than not you will hear “Jeez, I never knew you did that too!”
Just because someone knows you or has done business with you doesn’t necessarily mean that person will recognize a need for your services. Help such people refer business to you by describing the problems you address and the organizations that are likely to experience them. Also, describe the events that trigger a need for your services. For ideas, look to changes in the economy, regulation, competitive environment, and technology.
Finally, help referrers discover a need for your services before the prospect begins actively searching for a solution. Train them to listen for key phrases that often accompany a need for your services. Provide them with questions they can ask to uncover needs that would otherwise not come up in conversation. In addition to focusing on areas of change that might drive demand, suggest that they ask about the company’s satisfaction with its current professional services provider—and whether that company or person provides a particular service that your clients have found helpful.
Action step: Give colleagues, clients, and customers a glimpse into all of the work required for you to execute a certain service you currently provide for them.
Step 3 – Discuss the subject of growth with your clients
Have you noticed that when you are excited about something, other people just seem to match your level of excitement? Yet many professionals consider it taboo to discuss their excitement about helping others to grow their business by referral—especially with existing clients. The common reaction is, “I can’t discuss or ask for referrals. It will make me look cheap or salesy.” That’s simply wrong. And while we’re at it, let’s dispel another false assumption that stops you from asking for referrals.
A good idea is to block 15 minutes at the end of each prospect or client meeting to “brainstorm” on the subject of referrals, and communicate this ahead of time with a meeting agenda. While most professionals are experts at holding “meetings” with clients or prospects, many are utter disappointments at holding a meeting with an agenda—let alone one that allots time for the discussion of referrals. Why? Probably because most professionals are uncomfortable bringing up the subject of referrals with their clients or prospects for fear of damaging the relationship. What a ridiculous fear! Overcome it by learning how to segue into this topic by discussing your visions of growth.
Action step: For every meeting you hold, mail a written agenda ahead of time to your clients or prospects. On the agenda, place an item to discuss the subject of referrals and begin the discussion by sharing your desire to grow your business and serve others.
Step 4 – Reward referral-generating behavior
It amazes me how many professionals don’t recognize and reward referral-generating behavior—whether it comes from their clients or even their office staff. Much as you reward a schoolchild who brings home a good report card, you must reward any person who sends business your way. Start by focusing on your clients. Make them all aware that there’s something in it for them—a gift, free product, extra resource—when they refer people to you. And by all means follow through and reward them. But be careful: Don’t fall into the trap of rewarding the client only when their referral does business with you, or when you close the sale.
A great product that I have found to do this is Refericity. Refericity can easily be described as LinkedIn mixed with Groupon. It allows you to build your network of professional contacts as on LinkedIn. Unlike LinkedIn, Refericity rewards your clients and network with incentives and savings on products and services much like Groupon. All of this does not cost you a penny while providing you with a never-ending stream of new business. Be sure to check out Refericity’s referral program. Not only does it reward your referrer but also makes it easy for them to refer business to you.
Action Step: Reward clients just for referring you. This isn’t some cheap, gimmicky sales approach. It’s an honest appreciation and recognition for those people who are helping you. They’ve taken time from their schedules to do you a favor: refer someone to you.
Everyone loves referrals. Most professional service providers want more business. Even those with a full dance card can improve profitability by raising prices or adding staff. The nice thing about referrals is that they generally close faster than leads from other sources. For one, prospects who contact referred service providers generally already recognize they need the service about which they are inquiring. For another, they are predisposed to believing that the referred company is the one with which to do business. The only things limiting the number of referrals you get are the 4 steps listed above. Use these suggestions, one by one, to accelerate your referrals now!