Would you like to grow your business through referrals? If so, it appears that you’re on the right track. During an informal survey, fellow business improvement and coaching professionals said that approximately 70% of their revenue comes from referral and repeat business. Many of them are not satisfied with that number – they’re shooting for 80%, 90% or higher.
Referrals are the key to lowering your sales costs (and your stress level) when your business is one where you have to reinvent your book of business every year. Even if you’re an accountant, where there’s an annual or quarterly rhythm for existing clients to come back in, your practice won’t grow significantly without an inflow of new customers.
There are a few things for you to consider when you are developing a referral-based strategy:
- What do you consider to be a referral? Are you looking for a list of names that are in essence sales leads? Are you wanting personal introductions? Would you like your refer-ees to be the ones to initiate the conversation?
- What about you is referable? If you want more of your business to come from personal recommendations you need to figure out which part of your product and/or service is or has the potential to be buzz-worthy, and then work to improve it to the standard that will create fans. Perhaps your differentiator will be your process, the visual appeal of your product, your own personality and skills, the quality of service, etc. You attract referrals by earning them.
- Plant the seeds for referrals by asking for them. This is a developable skill. And think about the timing of when to ask for them. It’s more likely that you’ll get valid referrals when you’ve completed results-generating work for a customer than it is to be referred when you’ve only just met.
- Consider how you want to go about asking for referrals. This is based upon the motivators that will best inspire potential referrers to act on your behalf. Are you looking for their help in growing your business? Or are you giving them the opportunity to help a friend or business associate by connecting their friend with you, a reliable resource? These two positions come across very differently, and you want to be intentional about the situations in which you use them.
- Consistently deliver in a manner that meets and even exceeds expectations. The positive experience needs to be noteworthy enough for the client to want to talk about how effective you and your business are (and of course how smart they are for choosing to work with you!).
To review: One of your best tools for business growth is the referral. The first rule of referrals is to ask for them. The corollary, however, is to earn them. Demonstrate to clients and prospects that you’re the resource of choice for their company and that of their colleagues and friends. It will be easier to ask when you’re confident that you’re providing outstanding value for the investment. And who knows? Your phone might just start to ring on its own.