Got Referrals?By: Gary Lockwood
Ho-Hum. Another day at the office, waiting for a potential customer to call or come in. Hmmmm.
What would your business be like if your current customers were enthusiastically rounding up prospective customers for you? Imagine the excitement of talking to people who already know about you and know about your products and services. How difficult would it be to close those sales?
Of course! Selling to those people would be a piece of cake. So why aren't your current customers bringing you referrals? Perhaps it's because you have not instructed them, motivated them, made it easy for them, asked them or initiated the process.
Like most worthwhile endeavors, getting referrals requires planning and preparation. First, the planning. Start by making a list of all the people who might be a referral source for you. These may include people you do business with, such as your banker, accountant, attorney, printer, consultant, broker, and so on. This list will also include at least some of your existing clients. How about friends, community leaders, previous business associates, and suppliers?
Next, scan the list for the handful of your best current referrers. Chances are, you have a few people who routinely recommend prospective customers to you. Perhaps you also send referrals to them. Start with these potential "Referral Partners". Almost always, you'll have better results by developing stronger relationships with a few referral sources rather than shallow relationships with lots of sources.
In order to help your Referral Partners give you good, qualified referrals, you need to get crystal-clear about what you are looking for. What types of people/organizations make the best customers for you? Are there any geographic limitations? How about size or volume requirements?
What problems do your products and services solve? Your Referral Partner will have an easier time of spotting potential clients for you if they (and you) are clear about what symptoms to look for. This also makes it very natural for your Referral Partner to suggest your firm as a way for their colleague to solve a problem.
Don't overlook the desired personal characteristics of potential customers. As you know, the chemistry you have with a customer is a crucial factor in establishing a long-term business relationship. Have you ever noticed that some people make you feel good just to be around them? These are the people who give you energy when they are near you. These special people seem to unlock your creativity and stimulate your thinking. Wow!
On the other hand, there are probably others you can think of who just drain all the life out of you. Which would you rather have as clients? You can surround yourself with people who are pleasant, easy to deal with, interesting and, oh yes, profitable.
When you are clear about describing the recommendations you want, you make it easier for your Referral Partners to identify prospective customers for you.
Now that you have identified several possible Referral Partners and you are clear about the types of customers you want, it's time to create a customized plan for each Referral Partner. Think win-win. What does the Referral Partner get from this relationship? Brainstorm all the various ways in which the Referral Partner benefits from giving you a recommendation. Be as specific as you can. Each person has individual needs and interest, so be creative in discovering ways in which this person gets value from the Referral Partner relationship.
Perhaps one of your current Referral Partners could help you brainstorm this list of possible benefits that come from referring clients to you. Remember, people do things for their reasons, not yours. If you can't articulate the benefits of sending referrals to you, you'll not likely get many.
In order to instill confidence in your Referral Partner, you need to spell out exactly what you will do when given a referral. Your Referral Partner has surely developed valuable relationships over the years and will be most reluctant to do anything that might jeopardize those relationships. Be specific as to what will happen when your Referral Partner gives you a referral. A simple, step-by-step process that shows how you will represent yourself (and your Referral Partner) will provide assurance that the potential customer will be treated with respect and dignity.
Next, discuss the specific actions you want from your Referral Partner. Do you want them to call the potential customer? What do you want them to say? Would you prefer they arrange a three-way appointment? Often, people want to give you referrals, but don't know exactly what to do or how to do it. Train them; coach them; help them get clear on what's expected of them.
Once you get a referral, be sure to show your appreciation. Behavior that is recognized tends to be repeated. You can show your appreciation in many creative ways. For some Referral Partners, it may be a gift. Others may prefer recognition, favors, events or special support. Showing your appreciation is not only the polite thing to do; it is also a smart way to encourage more referrals.
So far, we've discussed getting recommendations for potential customers. What about referrals to new referral sources? By using the same process outlined earlier, you have the opportunity to develop new Referral Partners. This is a great way to dramatically increase your business without the time and effort of cold calling and cold prospecting.
Bottom line; developing and implementing an effective referral strategy can produce a steady stream of new business for years to come. You can achieve your professional goals faster and easier through effectively targeting referrals. Start today.
© 1997 - 2000 BizSuccess All rights reserved. No duplication
|Other Articles by Gary Lockwood|
The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.