One vital source of new business is referrals.
When a trusted source recommends your business, they are providing their endorsement. With referrals, a great deal of the selling has already been done. You can therefore minimize your efforts and maximize your returns by making full use of your referral sources. Here are 5 ways:
1. Determine your best referral sources.
They have been known to come in unlikely shapes and sizes; give everyone the benefit of the doubt! Keep an organized database showing your activities with them. It is easy to forget when you do not keep written records and easier to follow up when you do. Start with an informal chat and arrange to talk further. They may not refer clients right away but you can then send regular updates, birthday, anniversary or congrats greetings, invitations to your open house and social events and generally stay in touch. Keep an on-going, mutually beneficial relationship with your referral sources. Find out what they need and help them get it too. It is human nature to want to reciprocate. So aim to give more than you receive, hopefully keeping your referral sources in “reciprocate mode!”
2. Keep them informed.
As soon as you decide on a referral source, make an appointment to meet up with them. Do not procrastinate; remember, others want them too! Be sure to present the benefits they will derive from this relationship. If you will be cross promoting, you can spend the time learning about their business too. Quite often, we assume that we know what people do. Try asking your family and friends (possible referral sources) what they know about your business. You will be shocked at how “well informed” they are! By meeting up with your referral sources you are also able to establish rapport as you share your vision, goals, business story, and the benefits you provide.
3. Be on the lookout for more!
Just as with clients, we need a steady bank of referral sources. You will find them at networking meetings; industry events; social gatherings; places of worship; children’s schools; the gym; the salon; in fact, they are everywhere! When you attend events, do not just be there to find immediate business. Seek out referral sources too.
4. Track performance.
If an agreed referral source is not passing on new business, take the time to find out why. Have they had cause to stop believing in you? You might be able to do some image repair here. Have you lost touch? Get back in touch! Thank those who do send you clients, update them of the outcomes and find ways to reward them. However, if you cannot find a reason why they are not keeping their end of the deal it may be wise to end the referral arrangement.
5. Stand out!
No doubt, you are not the only one in your field whom your referral sources know. These days, we all know plenty of accountants, coaches, solicitors, web designers, personal stylists, caterers, printers … the list could go on! The way around this is to niche your services on two levels:
- (a) Solve a specific problem,
- (b) for a distinct group of people.
For instance, even though there are hundreds of business consultants in your city, let your referral sources know that you work specifically with female lawyers, doubling their client base in 6 months! You will be the one they think of whenever they bump into their lady lawyer friends as opposed to “just another business card in a pack of many!” This is why it is important to educate your referral sources or they may never have a clear reason to refer you. This is also how niched businesses find it easier to get steady clients and bigger fees than the generalists do.
Do not just collect names of possible referral sources.
Take the above steps to make the most of it. “Will do,” do I hear you say? No, get to work right away! Referrals can take time to mature into money in the bank. The sooner you get started, the better!