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Referrals Don't Just Happen

May 7, 2012

I maintain that human beings are hard wired to give more referrals. It’s an innate, primal instinct that we have, about at instinctual and nurturing to one’s soul as watching a campfire crackling on a cool autumn night. But, like those missing campfires that we don’t have often enough, we let silly, silly things get in the way of those referrals that we need to pass.

In the days of the cavemen, we learned to both pass on, and respect the passers, of knowledge of life. Things like the streams with the best water,  easier ways to collect and store berries, and better hunting grounds. Today, we still need to pass on information about life – like:

  • Who has the best pizza that would deliver here?
  • Where to get my hair cut?
  • What accountant is the best to help my business thrive without bankrupting me in fees?
  • How can I keep all of my customer’s information straight?

Often, this is a refer-ability problem for the business, and one that as a business owner or manager you must solve in order to get more people to refer you more. Specifically, you need to answer for your customers “How do I refer you?”  When you do this, and the better you do this, the more likely that you will get more referrals, more quickly and  in the way that you can best react to them.

When I get to this part of a conversation with a client, I’m very often met with statements like “They just hand my card to their friend and they call me, its that  easy”. So let me ask you - how many of your clients carry your card with them everywhere they go? Maybe one percent? And when you get a strange card from a friend, how often do you call it (if you don’t misplace it first) About 1/3 of the time? Oh dear- those numbers aren’t good at all 1/3 of 1%.  No wonder you don’t get nearly the amount of referrals that you deserve!

And any time that someone passes your name as a referral they are taking a risk. It involves a stake of personal prestige, self-import and ego. All of those factors go up when you give a great referral.  All of those go down when you give a marginal or bad one. So we’re playing with the math of ego. An issue we need to solve before you can get more of the referrals you’ve earned, is how you minimize the down side risk for your client or referrer of making the referral, and how you maximize the upside.

How can you do this? Here are a few examples:

  • A Free seminar/webinar with coupon (that your referrer just happens to have one of..)  This works much better when people are known to actually have to normally pay to get in; or if they would be attending themselves, but usually works anyway.
  • Free appetizer with dinner purchase- (you’ve given value, not money away, and really, what’s the mark-up on most appetizers?)
  • Invitation to a “customers only” user group.  The added benefit there is that a prospect will get to know several of your satisfied customers.

What isn’t a best practice (anymore, at least) is a “free one hour consultation”   All too often this is a thinly veiled sales pitch with relentless hounding afterwards.   And who wants to subject a friend to that?

So, is not knowing how to refer business the only thing keeping you from getting more referrals?  No, you also have to:

  • Know the symptoms of the person needing the referral
  • Know what will happen if they do refer someone
  • Know a secret to share

And please- NEVER, ever pay for a referral.

Written by leadingresults

Leading Results helps businesses stop wasting money on marketing and improves their business development results by putting POWER in their marketing. The POWER is the Processes, Organizational Support, Why (you do what you do), Expertise and Refer-ability. You get strategy, tactics and execution. We work with both individual businesses and businesses as part of a larger ecosystem. Be more profitable.

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