I went to a referral seminar once and the presenter said that he gets most of his referrals by begging. Really. “I live by referrals; my business can’t survive without referrals; I need at least three names of those that would benefit from my services – pleeeeease!!”, he told us. (Awkward.) He probably did get referrals from those people he used this technique on – maybe once. But, the secret to referral selling is building relationships of trust for a steady flow of referrals. Over time, there should be little time or need for cold-calling*.
Here are some ideas that have worked for me and others who have been successful at getting lots of referrals. Consider each, but customize them to your own style:
- Use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Social media is fast becoming a primary networkng strategy. Focus on people your clients may work with, went to school with or have common interests with. Then during a meeting with him/her, ask for specific introductions to those which most closely line up with your natural market (people you’d really like to meet).
- Relax. Be yourself. Although begging is extreme, there needs to be a comfortable way for you to convey how important referrals are to your practice and why you need to work with people that you can relate to and that can relate to you. Your best clients and friends will know what kind of persons those are. Engage your client in a casual conversation and review how you approached their problem and how you applied the solution. At some point, you have to ask if you could be introduced to a person that might appreciate your style and mode of handling things and that might have a problem for which you can provide a solution. Take your client and the prospect out for lunch, a round of golf, or a client event. You’ll know – or your client will know – when to broach the subject of your services.
- Be consistent, thankful, and sincere. In communications with ALL of your clients—in person, on the phone or via email—make sure you thank them for working with you. Emphasize how gratifying it is to you to help quality people like the client to whom you are talking and think of at least two reasons for why that is so. That makes it more personal and may help the client feel more relaxed and confident in talking to friends and business associates about your practice.
- Always be on the look out for people that you can refer to your clients. If you don’t send anyone to your clients, why would they send anyone to you? Even if the client is not in business, they may be have a fantastic vegetable garden. How do you think a home gardener would react to a call that began with “Hi, my name is John Smith – you don’t know me, but Bob Jones, your financial advisor/insurance agent/”friend”, suggested that I call you about some gardening problems I’m having. He says that you’re the best at beating the bugs and getting good production out of your plants.”? Make sure that at some point in the future when you have another reason to call your gardener/client that you mention, “Oh, by the way, did a guy by the name of Fred Johnson call you about a gardening problem he was having?” If the gardner/client says, “Yes”, you’ll know where to take the discussion. If he says, “No”, you have a reason to tell him why you referred him to your gardner/client with praise for his vegetable garden. Either way, you win, and set up a relationship that is primed for referrals in the future.
- Send a gift to the referring client for successful referral experience, especially one that results in a sale or a new account. For ALL referrals, at least send a thank you note, even if nothing comes from the actual referral meeting.
*Although, regular cold calling – setting a certain number per day, even a small number – is still a good sales practice.