Referrals are the lifeblood of a successful business – there’s no better way of building sales than by increasing referrals. They are not only the number one source of new business; they are the leading source of the best new business.
People like to make referrals – when we make a wise purchasing decision, we want to share it with others as a way of validating our own good judgment and good fortune.
To get referrals, you have to ask for them! If you are talking to one of your customers you might say, “As you know, we do a lot of work with medium-sized companies like yours and show them how to manage the cost of raw materials. If you know of anyone you think we can help, would you be willing to introduce us?” Almost every customer will say yes. Not all of them will follow through – but you’ve planted the seed!
Step 1 is getting people to agree to recommend you.
Step 2 is making sure they have the materials needed to facilitate the process. Give them copies of your firm brochures, newsletters and specialty booklets. When you do, include a note thanking them for their help. Then, follow up with periodic letters and new marketing materials. In addition, make sure that everyone in your organisation carries business cards and that you have a great website.
Here are six strategies for developing more and better referrals (you may prefer the term introductions – it sounds more professional and less intimidating):
- Provide your customers with a “WOW” experience
- Let your customers know up front that you will be asking for introductions. Explain how your business depends on positive word-of-mouth and specific recommendations.
- When asking for introductions, be sensitive to timing. It takes practice and experience to do it effectively. The best time to ask, naturally, is when you have just completed a project or assignment. Ask for a testimonial letter – one that he or she would feel comfortable with you sending to new contacts. Also, ask your customers to provide a review of your firm on review websites. Today it is the search engine of choice for many individuals and many different businesses. If you’ve never used it, log on and put in the name of your company to see what people are saying about you!
- Tell your customers exactly what you want them to do and describe the kinds of new customers you are looking for. Then discuss people they might know who meet these criteria. Your customer may offer to make a contact. Ask for a commitment, and let him or her know you will be in touch regarding the opportunity.
- When you do receive a referral, make sure to say “thank you”, whether or not the referral results in new business. Set up a system so that every referral is properly acknowledged.When you get a new customer as a result of an introduction, find a special way of thanking your referral source. Send a bottle or perhaps even a case of wine, a bouquet of flowers or a plant. The most memorable thank you’s will be specific to the individual such as:
- Concert tickets to a favourite band or orchestra
- A gift certificate to a favourite shop
- Dinner for 2 at a favourite restaurant
There is no better way to build your business than through referrals. Like you, most business owners and professionals are looking for new business. If you want people to make referrals to you, find a way to do the same for them.