Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Getting More Referrals
by Bill Cates
Referral Coach International
A complete and thriving referral-based business has four cornerstones. We call our system The Unlimited Referrals® Marketing System.
Get good at any one of these competencies and you're on your way to more referrals. Get good at two or more, and you'll create Unlimited Referrals® and a complete, 100% referral-based business.
1) Enhance Your Referability
How do our clients say "thank you" to us? - by coming back for more and by referring others. This is the first competency, because without it, the others would hardly be possible. You must serve your clients consistently well.
Enough companies are providing such great service these days that the service you provide will be measured by the high standards set by other companies - and not necessarily in your industry.
It's my belief that you should be getting referrals just by virtue of being in business. There are enough people who actually enjoy giving referrals and will do so without being asked.
But, the process of doing business with you must bring value to them, your service must "wow" them enough - to get them talking about you to others.
If you are not currently getting many referrals, then you need to look at the process you use to bring value, the service you provide, and the relationships you establish with your clients.
Every year, it's a good business practice to think strategically and evaluate your value proposition and your client-service model.
The better you become at what you do, the more referrals you'll get without asking and the more you'll get when you do ask.
2) Prospect for Introductions
To build a business quickly and to achieve sustained success, you (or your sales staff) must become a master prospector. A well-executed marketing plan will bring clients to your door (or phone).
But that's not always enough. Sometimes the clients that come to you aren't always the right clients. Sometimes the volume isn't enough to build to the level of sales you desire. I believe you should always be proactive in making referrals happen.
Many salespeople and business owners are great at serving clients, because that's the "safe" side of sales. But these same salespeople don't know how to leverage those great relationships into a continuous flow of new referral prospects. So much money is left on the table.
When asking for referrals, make the request about the value that you bring to your clients/customers and how you can reach others with that value.
3) Network Strategically
Not all of your referrals need to come from satisfied clients. Many can come from the relationships you nurture with people who may never become clients - Centers of Influence.
Every business has natural spheres of influence that you can tap into. Printers use graphic artists, ad agencies, and other non-competing printers.
Financial professionals use accountants, attorneys, and real-estate agents. You get the picture. What are the natural spheres of influence for your business?
Networking is an overused term and yet a strategy that few people employ well. The 3 most important ingredients in effective networking are:
1. think strategically - keep your focus narrow;
2. build value for your Centers of Influence as much and as often as possible...
3. follow up, follow up, follow up.
4) Target Niche Markets
Creating a reputation for yourself and your company with a shot-gun approach to marketing is very difficult. Narrowing your marketing focus to one or two well-defined niches makes it much easier to create a reputation and will substantially increase your referral business.
When you target a niche, your perceived and actual values are increased significantly. Plus, your requests for referrals are more targeted and therefore more effective.
When you target a niche, you bring value to the first appointment that your competitors, who don't target, can not bring. You can engage in a deeper level of conversation about their needs and wants right from the start. Within a niche, your reputation will spread much faster than it could with a broader marketing approach.
Are you committed to referrals?
Building a 100% referral-based business starts with your commitment to do so. Dabbling in referrals will get you a little. Becoming a "student of the game" brings you a steady stream of great clients through referrals.
Bill Cates is the author of two popular books on referrals. "Unlimited Referrals" established Bill as one the foremost experts on how to build a thriving business with referrals. His newest book, "Get More Referrals Now", has just been published by McGraw-Hill. Bill is the president of Referral Coach International.
Bill will be teaching a one hour, straight-to-the point teleclass in May. Sign up for the FAN newsletter to make sure you don't miss it, or keep watching the blog for details.