How to Generate Referrals
2018, a new year filled with tons of business opportunities. The score sheet is dialed back to zero and you are going to crush it in the marketplace this year. But how can you consistently be at your best when the business world is always changing?
The first step is to be found. With the abundance of information on the internet, you must be smart about building a brand that’s easy to find and easy to understand. Buyers are already halfway through the buying process before they ever contact you, so make sure your brand comes up when they are looking for the product or service you are selling. But how can this be done? You can most definitely go about this journey by yourself, spending endless hours cold calling and e-mailing prospects. But how can you be smarter about this and spend your time and resources more wisely? Wouldn’t it be great to have multiple eyes and ears out there helping you get in front of potential clients at the right time, before they’ve made the buying decision? I want to let you in on a grassroots idea that has worked successfully for Garland Chamber members for years.
It’s called, “The Power of a Referral Network.”
A referral network is a group of professionals that has mutual trust between them, that are more than happy to refer one and another to their clients or friends. Trust is the key word here, since a referral is a reflection of ourselves. Who wants to send their friends in to the wolfs den? By building a referral network with others that you trust, your leads will be coming to you instead of the other way around. I have multiple members in the Garland Chamber that never have a need to cold call or cold e-mail. They are basically filling their time with following up with referrals from their network. How do they do it?
Well, there are a couple of things they all have in common. The first thing they will tell you is that a relationship is not something that can be built in a single interaction. You must meet with each member of your network multiple times to fully convey how you help businesses or individuals, and secondly, more importantly, to foster trust. These referral network masters aren’t afraid of narrowing down their target market either. Instead, they tell you the exact details of what the companies or individuals look like that they want to speak with.
So, what are the steps to creating a good referral partner?
Take a little time to think about the characteristics of a good referral partner. When you’re out and about, open your eyes and look around with these characteristics in mind. Sales professionals are a natural choice because they are already out in the market and creating relationship with business owners, but don’t forget about your current customers. They have already bought into your product and company and have experienced the value first-hand.
Take the Time to Learn About the Referral Source Business
Set up a time to meet face-to-face for a conversation about what types of businesses you typically sell to. Be specific and give examples. This will help the other person understand whether you both pursue a similar target market. There is no need to spend too much time if you are a B2B and the other person is primarily B2C. However, it’s important to have a clear mind, not making any assumptions about what the other person does. It’s likely that you will be surprised when you get to know their capabilities.
Do you complement each other? The best referral networks have a natural transition between each other. If you are a commercial lender, what financial services do businesses need beyond what you’re able to provide? A natural referral partner might be a CPA. A transition from commercial lending to a florist might feel a bit forced in a meeting, but a CPA is a much more relevant next step. Also, take some time and reflect over the situation from your client’s side. What type of services or products are important to them? What do they need?
Level of Trust
Do you trust the other person and feel that you are serving your customer in a like-minded way? When you are referring your customers to another company, your customers’ relationships with your referral partner will be an extension of yourself. You also don’t want to spend time trying to monitor this new relationship between your referral partner and current customer.
Ask for Referrals
Ask. Too many times we expect that referrals will be coming our way if we are just patient enough. If you are mindfully creating a referral network it is a natural next step to discuss specifics, but this process is not always obvious to your customers. Ask them if they know of anyone that could need your help next.
Say Thank You!
We all love getting referrals! Sometimes you’ll be introduced to someone who is a perfect fit. Sometimes you won’t. In either case, be gracious. Let the other person know whether it’s a match made in heaven or a bit of a misfit. They took the time and the trust of their network to introduce you, so give them the courtesy of acknowledging the effort.
If you are getting a lot of bad referrals, do a little self-evaluation. Did you explain your target market too broadly? Was your product explanation too confusing? Effective, thorough communication is important.
Taking it to the Next Level
A bonus to building a referral network is the expertise and ability to solve other problems as well. A very smart member once told me, “I can’t help my potential clients before I have helped them solve their biggest issue.”
This is true in every way. They are going to focus all their energy on their top concerns, and if you are not solving this they will not be as receptive. If you have built a great referral network that can help in this situation, you’ve suddenly become extremely valuable. Next thing you know, this potential client will give you a call and request another meeting. You have built trust and established expertise with this client through your referral network because you spent a little extra time helping them with their biggest issue.
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