The word “referral” tends to conjure strong feelings from the business community at large. As a business person, you likely either love or loath the topic, and typically, your opinion stems from your personal experience and success (or lack thereof) in the world of referrals.
Although receiving referrals can seem like an elusive mix of talkative clients and a little luck, the truth is that a successful referral strategy is firmly within your control. You simply need the right mindset, solid research skills and a system that works.
CHANGE YOUR MINDSET
As a service provider, you are offering solutions to your clients that are increasing the quality of their lives. From an insurance agent who provides peace of mind for unexpected life events, a financial advisor who helps make dream retirements a reality or a dentist who keeps smiles healthy, service providers increase quality of life. So, why is it that we hesitate to create opportunities to help the people our current clients know and care about? You could even go so far as to say that you are doing those potential clients a disservice by not meeting them.
We all like to sound smart and let the people we care about in on our best-kept secrets. When your client, whose life has been positively affected by your service, tells someone else about you, it makes them feel great. As counterintuitive as it may sound, they are doing it for themselves as much as they are doing it for you. You must shift your perspective to be one of service and finding opportunities to do your good work in as many lives as possible, while also remembering that while it is an honor to be referred, it also makes your happy clients feel great to refer you.
DO THE HEAVY LIFTING
You know your business and rightfit client inside and out. You may assume that your clients know just as much as you do, but you would be surprised at how little they may truly know. When you approach a client with the question, “Can you refer me to someone you know who could benefit from working with me?” you are assigning the heavy lifting to your client. The problem for your client is not the act of referring but rather the identification of someone they know who would be a great fit to work with you. Your client may be worried about referring someone to you who isn’t a fit and afraid they would put you in a bad situation, or they may be just be at a loss for who they could refer. It really should not be their responsibility to identify a referral. If you want the referral, you should do the legwork through research.
Between Google, LinkedIn and other social networking sites, you can find a plethora of information about connections your clients may have. From previous employment and philanthropic interests to community service organizations and family connections, the Internet makes the act of identifying potential referrals as easy as a search query. Check out who your current clients know so that when you ask for a referral or introduction, you take the heavy lifting off your client by telling them exactly who you would like to meet.
While referred prospects tend to become clients quicker than cold prospects, there is still typically a courtship that must take place. If you have an efficient tracking and touch system in place, you can make sure that you are consistently staying in touch with these referred prospects. Enlist a team member to help you identify names of potential clients to ask for introductions. Also, be sure your system and team keep you accountable for ongoing interactions with your referrals until they become clients or you determine they are not a right fit for you. Your system can be as simple as a spreadsheet or as complicated as a client management system — just make sure you are not letting referrals slip through the cracks as a result of disorganized or non-existent follow-through.
Make a list of your top-ten clients. Have your team research the existing connections these clients have and identify connections you would like to meet. The next time you are in touch with these clients, ask them if you can take them and an identified prospect to a lowpressure lunch so you have the opportunity to meet the prospect and start creating a relationship.