Over the past couple of weeks we’ve talked about the value of better referrals and building your referral network. These strategies can help you decrease your cost of sales, increase your time talking with qualified prospects, and, ultimately, create a valuable network for clients, partners, and future customers. So how do you get better referrals?
Something I’ve learned from Alan Weiss is every single day, ask every client and prospect for three names of people who could benefit from your work. Do not take no for answer. If you do this religiously, you improve your business acquisition at virtually no cost.
One of the questions I’m often asked is, when is the best time to ask for a referral. I often say you can never ask too often, if you work to provide value in every conversation. Over the years dealing with professionals from a number of fields, I have seen referrals help take their practices to the next level.
There are many great books I refer to people when they start out looking for better referrals, but most share a common philosophy about asking and giving referrals. Do it as often as you can to create value for everyone involved. If you want to build as strong network, you must work to develop breakthrough relationships based on trust. These books should tell you it’s all about trust, but many focus on the mechanics and forget about this key foundation for networking success. When people trust you , you get better referrals.
I find that the best way to get better referrals is plan to ask for a specific person or persons. If the person you asked can’t think of anyone, spark their memories by suggesting the types of people you have been referred to in the past. You can do it by title, by location, or even by their association within your shared network. When asking by location, make sure you try to maximize your time by working with several people in a similar geography. When I’m in town, I let everybody know so I have a chance to reconnect. If I’m planning to be in a particular city, it’s a perfect opportunity to meet with new people while you’re there. When I ‘m just starting work with a client, I may ask them to meet several other people up and down the organization when I’m just starting out working with them. This has the added bonus of having a much better understanding of their organization than I’d have working just with an economic buyer. I make sure I have added them to my database even if I don’t call on these people at the time so I can catch up with them in the future.
The second idea that has worked well for me in the past is asking for additional introductions when something goes well on a project. If you can capture the positive moment with a client you are more likely to find them open to sharing you with others in their network of influence. Be careful here, many consultants sell their exclusivity during their sales process and then try to find another client in the same industry. When you work with nonprofits, that’s acceptable, with corporations it may not be. You have to decide how you want to handle it.
The final idea I would share is to make sure that you close the loop when people provide you with a better referral. I try to do this by sending a note or making a call to let the person who referred me, just to let them know how the conversation went so they won’t be surprised by what transpired. I don’t disclose any confidential details but I thank them and might send them a book or ask if they would like to grab lunch next time I’m in town. I’m sure you won’t be surprised but I may ask for another great referral from them. People are so surprised by my call back, they want to help me some more. I also make sure I refer them back when I’m given a chance, sometimes I reach out to another contact in my network to introduce them because I can see value for both parties. I might even take them to lunch together when I have a chance.
We’ve spent the last several blogs sharing how to build a great referral network. Getting better referrals well help you grow your business faster. If you invest time in your network, you multiply your success faster and easier than you can imagine.
Looking for new ways to connect with people? You might also enjoy reading Are You Connected?
See you here next week, when I reexamine social networks and how things have changed over the past twelve months, not always for the good. You might be surprised by what I share next week. See you then.