referrals for businessReferrals take the guesswork out of your buying decisions

I’m sitting on a South Pacific beach, and you’d think that the farthest thing from my mind would be business referrals. It was one of the first days of vacation and maybe I hadn’t quite pulled the plug, so I started thinking about referrals from a different perspective. We usually think in terms of what referral advocates do to get the attention of prospects, but maybe we need to think more about the value of referrals to the prospects.

I did a thought experiment where I put myself in the role of a purchasing agent in a large organization. And since I was settling into my vacation at a time-share resort, what better type of organization to consider. I need do no more than look around me to visualize the myriad decisions that I and my purchasing team would need to go through. We’d have to find and source vendor relationships to support products and services such as:

Beach equipment – Who provides all the beach chairs, cabanas, and umbrellas that support our days of leisure? What about the chairs and tables for the weekly outdoor luau, and the carts to move them? Who repairs this equipment after storm damage and normal wear and tear?

Towels – Where I was staying, every resort visitor gets two beach towels and can turn those in daily (or more often) for fresh towels. Where does the resort buy those towels? Who washes them? If it is the resort, then who supplies the laundry equipment? The laundry soap and fabric softener? Or, do they use a third-party service? Same goes for towels, dish towels, and linens in the residence units.

Pool – Who maintains the pool? Where do the chemicals come from? Who repaints them?

Restaurant – One could dedicate a whole blog to food service. Our resort has two restaurants, a pool-side bar, and a small convenience store/fast-food outlet. How are they learning where to buy all the food and supplies for these facilities?

Furnishings and Appliances – Sofas, chairs, tables, beds, carpet, sliding glass doors, balcony tables and chairs, kitchen appliances, laundry appliances, and air-conditioning systems. Where do you buy things? Who services the appliances and air conditioning?

Communications – TV, Internet, and multi-function phones (the latter being overkill and mostly used for messages from resort staff). Who is the ISP? Who provides the connectivity? Who wires the resort and maintains that wiring?

Golf carts – Not for the golf course – that, too, could be another blog. But, golf carts used by resort staff to move supplies around.

Maintenance – Lawnmowers, tree trimmers, tractors for raking the beach, grass trimmers, leaf (and sand) blowers), painting, cleaning service. Where does all of this come from?

And the list goes on. Maybe we are sourcing some of these services from our local community for local use. Maybe we are helping the corporate office to source for regional or global distribution. Our team is going to receive dozens of solicitations for each of the many products and services listed above. We’re likely not satisfied with some of our current vendors, so we’ll be actively looking for replacements. Other vendors will be trying to get us to replace vendors that we are currently using. How do we make our decisions? How do we decide which vendor calls to take? How do we know which vendors to trust?

Referrals cut through all of this complexity. Putting myself in the mindset of a prospect, if I hear from a colleague at another resort down the shore, or if a business acquaintance that I met at a hospitality business conference contacts me, I will listen. If they tell me about good results from a service provider, I am going to listen harder. I’ll respond to an email or return a phone call from someone I know, even a passing business acquaintance, ten times faster than any other solicitation I receive each day. These are people with whom I already have a connection, and I’m going to listen seriously to their experience and the basis for their recommendation. That’s why business referrals work!

The reality is, referrals are an important part of your prospect’s buying process. If you aren’t providing your customers and buyers with effective ways to give and get referrals, you’re missing the boat.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest and out of mind, let me get back to my Mai Tai.