What’s your referral strategy? And why you need one…

When a client refers you, it’s the single best source of business on the planet.

Referral business is pre-qualified to be right for you and it closes way more often than other lead sources… Oh, and it comes with zero advertising and marketing costs too.

In short, client referrals are your superheroes when it comes to growing profit.

I’m sure you know this and see it in your business, as referrals are often the lifeblood of any service business, big or small.

But do you have a consistent, repeatable strategy for generating referrals in your business?

Does your team spend dedicated time each week on nurturing and networking to drive them?

My guess is the answer’s no (if it’s yes, you have my permission to stop reading this and crawl back under that huge pile of cash your referral strategy is making you).

Out of the clients I work with, I’d say only one in twenty businesses do have a referral strategy that operates as a non-negotiable, focussed system for business generation.

And this is crazy! Referrals are the lowest hanging fruit. They’re easy profit, ripe for the picking. So why wouldn’t you?

Referrals work because you already have credibility. You already have your prospect’s trust.

But in most businesses there’s a huge gap between how important they know referral business to be, and their team’s actions in generating it.

If you have a gap like this, it’s time to close it and stop leaving revenue and profit unclaimed!

So, what can you do?

You need to run a referral business campaign like you run a sales campaign. It needs to be concrete and measureable. 

Here are my five steps to getting started:

Have a clear goal for referrals.

What does success look like to you and your team? Decide this at the outset and track your team’s progress on a weekly basis.

Create an actual campaign.

Put something tactical in place. If your team’s 100% clear on the steps they need to take to drive referrals, then they’re much more likely to implement them.

Make sure the team’s mindset is right.

We all hate asking for help (particularly the Brits amongst us!). It makes us feel awkward.  But this needs to be reframed for you and your team.  People actually LIKE to be asked. People like to help. And if you have a service that’s of value, you can help more businesses like you’ve helped your client’s. In fact, you and your team have an ETHICAL IMPERATIVE to share this ability to help others. So, tell them!

Encourage your team to test different methods for approaching clients.

Let them find out what works best for them. What works for one person, may not be right for another. But as long as they get the same outcome that’s not a problem. The key is that it’s done non-apologetically, consistently and effectively.

Once the campaign is up and running, make sure it’s conditioned as best practice.

Make it part of how your business functions. Ingrain it in your business DNA.

How should you and your team ask for a referral?

Asking for a referral feels odd because you’re changing the dynamic with your client – instead of selling and delivering a service TO them, you want something FROM them.

So, first we need to reframe you and your team’s mindset.

Asking for help isn’t easy. It can make us feel awkward. Vulnerable even. We’re grown-up professional people after all, why should we need help?

When we imagine asking for help, or a referral in this case, most of us will see this as putting some sort of pressure on the other person. We’re asking them to do something for us – to go out of their way for us. And most of us will feel apologetic about this. It makes us squirm in our seats a little bit.

But it’s important to realise that people actually like to help. People like to be asked. In fact, it makes them feel wanted and significant.

Think about the last time someone asked for your help professionally? Did you get annoyed and feel put out?

It’s much more likely you felt pleased that they’d chosen you to ask for help and that you felt happy that your knowledge or skill could be of help to someone.

But, people also need to be pushed to make a referral. It’s not something that naturally occurs to people outside a small number of your clients (these natural referrers should be high up on your Christmas card list!). So, you need to ask. And this is how you start:

“I need your help with something.”

As simple as that. Nothing convoluted. No big awkward backstory. Just those simple words.

And once you’ve heard that magical reply “Of course!”, then follow these steps to maximise the opportunity:

Be specific.

Be clear about what you want them to do for you. Try and identify a specific person or discover one in conversation with your client, then ask for an introduction. A simple email introduction is great and easy for your client to do.

If a specific individual isn’t clear, you can say something like: “I know in your business life you must have come across people in the same position as you who could benefit from my services. Could you recommend me to them?”

Strike while the iron’s hot.

Ask them when you’ve just added value and you’re fresh in their mind. Ideally, when you’ve just finished a successful project for them and they’re happily singing your praises. All you need to do is help them to channel that praise in a direction that’s beneficial to you.

A great time to ask is when they’re thanking you for your service. Here you can use the line, “I’m glad you’ve got benefit from using us, but don’t thank me yet as I have a favour to ask…”

Be genuine.

When you ask, explain that referrals are at the heart of your business growth. Be clear that referrals are vital for the success of your business and that by helping you they’ll be having a really tangible impact on this. They’re likely to feel good about this and more motivated to help.

Follow up and close.

It’s important that you see this as part of your business development and not a casual ask.

Once your client has agreed to help, ideally with someone specific, gain a commitment.  Acknowledge that they’re likely to be busy and that you understand this could slip down their list, so agree you’ll follow up with them at a certain time.

As a fallback, if they get distracted or time is passing, ask for permission to use their name and approach the new contact yourself. This is second best to an introduction, but still valuable.

The important thing is to see this as a next step in a future sale. Don’t ask apologetically, remember you and your company provide value and it’s critical to get that help in front of the people who need it.  And make sure you follow up once they’ve agreed to help you.

Oh, and always be overly lavish with your thanks and praise when someone refers you. Consider sending them a gift or handwritten note – they’ve just gone out of their way to generate you a new client. They are your new best friend!

Need some help?

Sometimes an outside perspective can be beneficial. If you’d like some help putting a referral strategy in place, or some ideas on reframing your team’s mindset, contact us here for an initial discussion.