In some industries referrals can account for as much as 90% of business. And for many professionals referrals are the primary source of new business. So, how do you create a professional referral network that generates maximum referral business?
Follow these four simple steps, and you’ll create an active, effective, professional referral and a stream of referral business…
STEP 1: Connect with the “RIGHT” Referral Partners
Think about this for a moment… who are the people who are most likely, willing and able to refer you? If you’re a marketing consultant, who would make a better referral partner for you — a plumber who serves consumers, primarily interfaces with homeowners, and isn’t that motivated to act as a cross referral partner, or a PR consultant who serves corporations, interacts with marketing executives, and wants to connect and cross refer? Targeting and connecting with appropriate, motivated, “ideal” referral partners is the first step in building an active professional referral network. Don’t look to build a network made up of 100’s of people, most of who’m you barely know, who sell into different markets, or who have little commitment to cross referral. Instead look to create a true referral network of ideal, targeted, motivated partners.
STEP 2: Get to Know Your Referral Partners
Once you identify and connect with the right referral partners, work get to know them. It’s a simple fact — people won’t refer you, if they don’t know you! How often do you get referrals from people you barely know? Almost never! Getting to know your partners is a critical step in building trust and familiarity, understanding what your partners do, helping them understand what you do and strengthening / reinforcing a mutual commitment to cross referral. Don’t just meet your partners one time and assume that’s enough, meet and communicate with your partners regularly. Meet once a month for coffee, lunch or a drink after work. Learn what they do, talk about how you might be able to help each other. Take the time to get to know your partners.
STEP 3: Learn How to Refer Your Partners
OK, so you’ve got a network of ideal referral partners, have gotten to know them and want to actively refer them. How do you do it? This is perhaps the hardest step for many professionals. We often hear questions like… How can I actively refer my partners? How can I uncover referral opportunities? How do I refer my partners in an unobtrusive way? It doesn’t have to be hard, complicated or aggressive. Most experienced networkers simply use an inquiring approach and stay mindful of helping others (both their clients/prospects and their referral partners)… They ask customers, prospects and contacts questions that help uncover referral opportunities, and they let them know they’re a great referral source. That’s it! For instance some insurance agents will ask their clients, prospects, contacts if they have any new home projects lined up for the new year (small talk – right). If the client say yes, there’s probably a referral opportunity. If the client says no, there’s an opportunity to let them know, “if you do need work done in the future, let me know I’ve got some great contacts in the home remodel space, might be able to get you a better deal, and would be happy to help”. When you let your contacts know you can help with referrals, you strengthen your relationship with them, as you’re going out of your way to try and help them with services you don’t provide. You establish yourself as a referral hub in the community. And you uncover referral opportunities for your partners. Want a better example, look at the top selling real estate professionals. The vast majority of their business comes through referral, they’ve learned just how powerful it can be to ask clients and contacts the right questions, and then let them know they might be able to help if they need ANYTHING. All it really takes is a willingness to engage and chat with your customers and contacts, ask them questions about what’s going on in their lives, find out what they are in need of, try to help them and let them know you might be able to help with a good referral.
STEP 4: Actively Refer Your Partners
When you give, you get! Yes, it’s a cliché’, but also very true, and no more so than in the world of referral networking. One of the most common things we hear from professionals looking for referral business is, “I haven’t gotten any referrals”. The first question we usually ask, is “have you given any referrals?” The best referral networkers are also the best referral givers. Have you ever received a referral or lead from someone, felt a sense of gratitude and desire to return the favor? This is human nature. When you help another person, they want to return the favor. Look to give referrals to your partners, it costs nothing, feels good and will turn your contacts into active / committed referral partners.
Follow and commit to these four simple steps and you’ll build a powerful, effective network of referral partners that creates an ongoing stream of referral business.