In Part I of this article, we covered 3 diagnostic questions for understanding the current health of your referral base: How long have you been in business? How many referrals are you getting now? Are they always appropriately qualified?
Now, it’s time to learn how to significantly increase referrals … without asking!
Unsolicited referrals are an expression of respect and support. A good referral is earned and clearly demonstrates that your clients really value what you do for them. By actively enabling your clients to refer to you, you can generate a predictable and steady flow of referrals … and, isn't that what we all want?!
Here are the Top 3 ways you can improve your referral success rate and turn reluctant referral sources into an active source of qualified referrals for your business:
1. Be Consistent, Predictable and Reliable
Your best clients need to feel confident that your services are a remarkably better choice for their colleagues, friends, and family. Consistency in your service delivery is paramount to building trust. If your clients think that the experience they have with you is not likely to be duplicated with others, they won’t risk it. To them, making a referral that goes badly is worse than making no referral at all. People refer others in an effort to help them, and they want to be absolutely certain that their referral to you will make them look good, and just as importantly, not bring them grief!
Action: Design a service experience for your client engagements. It doesn’t have to be robust to start, but it needs to be systematic, methodical and easily repeatable so that your clients have a similar experience and always know what to expect. This is the foundation for them to feel comfortable referring the experience you will provide.
2. Provide Access Points
Not everyone feels comfortable with a direct introduction, even when you’ve been referred to them. Many people fear that you’ll be that dreaded salesperson who hounds them for a meeting when they haven’t even decided whether or not they want to talk with you. In this age of social media, there is plenty of opportunity for people to get to know you from a distance at first, where there isn’t any pressure or expectation.
Action: Create different opportunities for your referrals to get to know you. Review your marketing collateral, online social engagements, neutral one-to-one settings, and group engagements to ensure that you have all the bases covered.
3. Acknowledge, Appreciate, and Encourage
Everyone appreciates being acknowledged. Your referral sources are no different, but be sensitive to individual styles. Sometimes it’s appropriate to acknowledge them both privately and publicly, particularly in our very transparent business communities. Appreciation can come in many forms. What would your referral most appreciate from you? It could be time, unique gifts, or introductions, to name a few. Keep several ideas in mind so that you’re prepared when the time comes.
And lastly, don’t forget to encourage more! When your referrals go well, be sure to let your referrer know and invite them to refer others just like them. They will appreciate knowing that their introduction not only worked for their referral, but also for you, and will likely respond with further support.
Action: Develop a referral process to ensure you follow through and to build more consistency in your offer.
I believe that referrals are one of the fastest and easiest ways to build a loyal client base and a more fulfilling business. As such, referral generation is something I am very passionate about. Our clients work with us to create a more referable business and we invite you to get in touch with us if that’s an area you’d like to develop in your own professional services business.
I’m sure you’re sitting on a Gold Mine of potential referrals. Let me know if you’d like some help with accessing it!