Referrals are the fastest path to closing new business. However, there are some best practices associated with the art of closing referrals. There are an endless number of resources offering insight, some of it is way off base and even uncomfortable for many. If you’ve used some of these strategies unsuccessfully or are tired of the inconsistent results received from your current efforts, there are a number of productive ways that you can turn the tide in your favor. Before you ask for another referral, read these tips and put them into action.
1. Stop asking your customers for favors.
Asking your clients and other industry professionals is a common piece of advice given by many referral experts.
Unfortunately, it seems that people who make other conscious efforts to educate and be helpful are much better at getting and closing referrals than those who outright ask for them.
Let’s say for example, you have lunch with your tax advisor and during the lunch he asks you if you know someone who could use his help right now. Usually this request comes out of the blue and you’re not prepared for it, so you hum and hah while you try to think of someone that could benefit from working with him. After an awkward silence, you not only look like you aren’t prepared to refer him, you aren’t prepared to refer him.
Don’t get me wrong. We all love to make referrals. When it’s the right time and place. Not when it feels like a condition of doing business. When you ask for the referral, you quickly go from a trusted professional to a ‘salesperson’.
But if you don’t ask for referrals, how is it possible to build your business with this known tactic? There are plenty of ways–most are much less obnoxious, so read on.
2. Enhance your industry visibility.
It makes sense that satisfied clients will recommend your products and services to others, but what about other professionals in your industry? Look to those who serve the same target market your company serves, but sell something non-competing. It’s not uncommon for these professionals to make referrals. But in order for them to do that, they have known you, like you, and trust that you can do a great job. After all, once their reputation is on the line, they will only make referrals to the best resources because their credibility is at stake.
You can improve your industry visibility from your desk by writing insightful comments on high profile blogs and sites in your industry. By providing interesting commentary on those articles that get a decent amount of traffic, you too, can soon become recognized as someone knowledgeable in the industry.
Submitting your own articles to sites and blogs that look for expert content is another means of increasing your stature in the industry.
Speaking is one of the best ways to build trust and visibility. And it’s also a great way to get referrals. Offering your insight to prospects by way of speaking allows people the opportunity to get to know and like you. And after seeing what you have to offer, they are very likely to make a referral to you based on what they learned from you.
Think about conferences and events you’ve attended. In some cases, I’ll bet you’ve listened to speakers and then referred someone to them. As a speaker, attendees often appreciate your expertise so much that they connect with you right after the event. It’s also not uncommon for them to pass your name and contact details on to someone they believe could benefit from meeting with you.
Instead of directly asking for referrals, encourage word-of-mouth through other more subtle means. For instance, you may add a column to your newsletter to acknowledge and thank customers who have referred business your way or mentioned you on their blog or website. This will show that you value referrals without directly asking other customers to follow suit.
Once your indirect programs are in place, you don’t have to ask for favors. You just have to trust that your customers see the value in the services that you provide and will want to appear in that newsletter or earn those rewards. Even better, you can trust that they will recommend you to others simply because they feel confident that you are the best in your industry. They trust you, so why would they not ask others to trust you as well?
4. Deliver trustworthy data.
While this can be costly to go out and perform or commission your own research, it can be an opportunity to heighten your visibility as a thought leader in the industry. This isn’t something that every business can afford to do, but it might be something to keep in mind as a future goal.
A way to make it more affordable is to consider joining with another reputable business to share the expenses and time needed to complete the research.
If you don’t have the resources to conduct the research yourself, another opportunity to get visibility out of an industry report completed by someone else is to acknowledge it and provide some thoughtful commentary on what it means for the industry as a whole. Acknowledging the good work of others shows how you’re willing to share the best information that is out there and add value to the industry community at-large.
5. Give your referrers the proof they’re looking for.
Nothing is more powerful than a client’s success story. Stories that detail how you delivered results for a client are exactly what people need to refer. Stories are easy to remember because there’s context around the problem and the results.
Showcasing the problems you’ve solved for clients and the results you’ve delivered in case studies, blog posts or even simple testimonial quotes from clients are incredibly powerful in convincing someone to refer you to others. It allows you to turn the spotlight to them while indirectly shining a light on your products or services. Be mindful of the limits of what can be shared or disclosed.
6. ’Tis better to give than to receive.
You can assume that every business owner or professional that you come in contact with is just as worried about closing referrals as you. To get more referrals, you have to have a mind-set that you’re out to add value wherever you can. Think about who you know and who you can introduce that could create profitable relationships.
Identify a list of experts you’d like to get more referrals from and figure out how you can send more referrals their way. These have to be natural fits for this to deliver success, but it can be extremely profitable with some thought and effort.
Other ways to give more include sharing social media posts, or content from their blog or website. The more you give, the higher your chances of receiving.
Did you notice that many of these referral-generation strategies allow you to attract new customers even without referrals from others? That happens naturally when you step out of your comfort zone and start showing the world that you’re a vault of valuable information and exceptional services. Don’t sit around waiting for others to recommend your business. Put yourself out there as a wealth of resources and let them shine the light on you.
If you’d like more information about generating referral business, grab a copy of Renewable Referrals—How To Cultivate More Profits at amazon.com.