One of the most useful teachings I have learned over the last few years is the art of getting referrals. In fact almost half my business today comes from client referrals, recommendations and introductions. The funny part is it wasn’t like this when I first started out in the field. Over time the referrals kept coming and these days I have a list of clients who await my services. The referral system can be accelerated when the process is laid out and implemented. Collecting referrals however is an art and must be mastered over time.
You might ask yourself why do I say that this is an untapped resource. Well the answer is truly that most entrepreneurs tend not to take advantage of this system until recently. We tend to get so focused on marketing our products and taking care of daily operations that we tend to spend less time on the minor details. A few of my clients have developed a unique referral system and in turn over the years now focused on it as a priority for lead generation.
The first thing you need to know is that you will get more referrals if you let your current clients that you always welcome,need and want referrals. Some clients just don’t think about this or perceive this if you don’t ask for the referrals. When you are busy with clients it gives off the vibe that you can’t take on any more clients. Some clients aren’t entrepreneurs and hence don’t understand the meaning of referrals unless it is brought to their attention. The best solution is to plant seeds and make them more aware of your business intentions. If it involves you informing them via newsletter, phone call, email or even sending a postcard this will create reminders in your customers minds and in turn help you in the long run.
Customers tend to give you more referrals if they feel confident, comfortable and good judgment about your services, products and/or even character. This is why it is very important and necessary that you do your best and put in 150% for every customer you have. My own clients agree with me on this that when you have customers that are satisfied with your services in turn talk about you more. This involves everything from how you carry yourself, punctuality, prompt responses, support and consistency in your actions. Potential referral sources will equate your character and behavior with trustworthiness.
Getting your clients to take action for you is very essential and in fact builds more credibility for you. I still remember this one time I called a referral up and the person wasn’t expecting my call and in turn hadn’t spoken to my client yet. Not only was it an awkward conversation but I ended up losing the prospect. Always ask your client how you can help their referrals and either get them to call up the referral first and inform them of your call first or even better get the referral to contact you.
Never underestimate your clients and in turn always try your best to educate your clients on what you do. I have always been pleasantly surprised with my client referrals. Most of the my referrals came from clients I didn’t expect any referrals from. I recently emailed 2000 of my clients/contacts to thank them for their business and inform of them of my business and the changes to it. Within a 24 hours I had about 100 emails and responses from my list of customers who kept referring me to other people they knew that might benefit from my business. The emails keep coming! Communication is key be it through email marketing, cold calling direct mailing.
Studies have shown that being courteous respectful and showing gratitude for referrals always works in your favor. I always advise my clients to have a 3 point of contact rule. The first is a verbally note. The second is a message after the referral turns into a sale. Finally I tend to send my best referral sources a small gift or reward or even a discount. Most of the presents come out during the Christmas break. Remember surprising your clients is always the best way to get them to remember you.
Try to identify why referrals are being sent your way. Why did your client refer them to you? What can you do for them? Why the fit? Where did the client acquire this referral? This in turn will help you not only understand your potential future business better but also give you an idea on what you need to do to get more future referrals.
The referral system can also be an infectious tool. Pass your referrals too in return and you will notice most of the time the referrals reciprocated. When you become a source of referrals your business is the limelight and you are in good books with your clients. In turn they will return the favor.
Did you know that
a- Sales people in the car industry are hired based on who they know, and what referral pool they have?
Its really tough to get into selling cars if you don’t have your own referral system to generate leads
b- Hairdressers and barbers not only get repair business, but also practice the referral system and hence
most of their new business comes from this process
c- Great bookkeepers tend to get most of their potential business through referrals than advertising
d- Headhunters tend to ask their current candidates for more referrals
The list is endless. What you need to do is identify how you can get referrals from your business and work on a game plan to implement the process in your day to day business. If you are collecting referrals identify areas that you haven’t tapped into yet!