Alan Melton is president of Small Business Coach Associates in Greer.
We all know that word of mouth is the best way to grow a business. When you receive a referral you will have little or no competition, you will be able to command a higher price, and your referral source will have done much of the selling for you.
The fastest way to grow your business is to begin with people that you already know. People do business with those whom they know, like and trust. This will include people you have worked with in the past, friends, family and your current customers. On average, each one of us knows about 250 people. Among the people that you know are people who will refer business to you if you will only ask.
Consider these facts: 20 percent of the people that you know will give you referrals without you having to ask. 20 percent of the people that you know will never give you a referral no matter how many times you ask. However, 60 percent of the people will give you a referral if you ask in the right way.
Here’s the way to ask: “Who do you know who could benefit from my services?”
Here are some keys to getting referrals:
• Develop your big list. Write down every adult that you know on a list. Use the list of professions in the separate attachment to give you a reminder as you develop your list.
• Develop your small list. Prioritize your big list, and select 20 people that you want to focus on building deeper relationships. Select people who are centers of influence in your community. Develop a list and deepen relationships with them. Choose people that you will serve. The question is not “what can I get, but rather what can I give?” You will serve them by giving referrals, remembering important events like birthdays and anniversaries, praying for them, sending books, thoughtful articles, etc.
• When you identify someone who could be a great referral source, meet with them one-on-one to deepen the relationship.
• At that point, keep asking questions and listen two-thirds of the time and talk about the benefits of your service or product one-third.
• Ask “feel good” questions. Be a good interviewer. Stay focused on them rather than talking about yourself.
• Listen well, affirm them and get their business card.
• Ask: “If I were to meet an ideal client for you, how would I recognize them?”
• Connect them with other people that are a good fit for them.
• Connect with them on Linkedin. Before you do that, make sure that your Linkedin profile is updated and features the benefits your service or product provides.
• Follow up with a thank you note. Say that you will try to make referrals to them.
• Begin speaking to everyone who is within three feet of you. Follow the interviewing tips above to begin to develop the relationship.
• Ask for referrals from everyone you meet with, but especially from your small list. Educate your small list about your services and deepen your relationships with them.
• Know that you will not likely get a referral the first time you ask. You must be consistent and persistent to get referrals. Also realize that getting to the first referral is the key with many people. It’s like priming a pump. Once you get the first referral, future referrals are likely to flow.
• Educate everyone about what you do. Don’t simply give a generic “commercial.” Use stories of working with clients to illustrate different aspects of your services.
• Be generous in giving referrals. Give generously and you will likely find other givers.
• Great referral givers:
• Your customers.
• Your past customers.
• Your friends and neighbors.
• People you have helped.
• Your vendors.
For service providers, learning the art of getting referrals may be the most important skill you can posses. Develop that skill and you will prosper.
Alan Melton is president of Small Business Coach Associates. He has started 10 businesses and acquired six more. Alan is a nationally known speaker, author and award-winning business leader.