Creating a rock solid referral network
Few people dispute the value of having a network of contacts who can feed through a steady flow of decent business opportunities.
In fact, one business owner we recently spoke with calculated the value of a referred sale, compared to one via their website, was worth almost 20% more. The referred customers were also less likely to haggle and valued their offering more.
Your network should be something that sticks with you over time. It should be something you offer value to as well as draw value from. So if you are looking to build yourself a strong referral network, here are 8 simple ways.
1. Focus on an industry
Industry specialists often command higher fees, attract plenty of new business leads and build a loyal follower base. Their customers are happier to pay a premium for that specialist industry knowledge, insight and experience. They often find the advice, products or services of an expert in their industry have greater relevance and customisation.
To be a specialist you need to have your finger on the pulse of everything that is happening in that industry. You need to build credibility and a track record. So immerse yourself in your chosen sector to amass valuable knowledge, meet useful contacts and spot potential leads.
Take a look at this article with plenty of tips for becoming known as an industry specialist. Be seen to offer solutions or support that tackle issues in the sector. If you can demonstrate your interest and passion for the industry, you’ll soon draw a loyal following.
2. Let others guide you to great networking groups
You only have so much time for networking and developing your contact base so invest it wisely to get the best return for your efforts.
Ask around for the groups that your current contacts value and explore why. Look beyond the obvious ones to special interest forums, charities, trade associations and professional bodies etc.
You may need to try and test a few groups to see which holds the most potential. Once you’ve discovered a good one then stick with it. Referrals will start to flow when you become a familiar face within the group. Be an active member and, if possible, offer some of your expertise for the greater good of the group. This will enable people to see, understand and grasp your business offering and proposition that much more easily.
3. Think about specific individuals who would add value to your network
List the people with the capability to refer business to you and you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised how many there are. There may be specific individuals you’d like to include in your network.
There are a whole host of ways to get in touch with these people ranging from meeting them at events and following them up, using social media, or asking your contacts to introduce you. Always consider what value you can bring to this person so they are happy to include you in their network.
4. Don’t forget family and friends.
You shouldn’t underestimate your family, friends and other social contacts in this context. Some business people are slightly nervous about mixing business with pleasure, saying that they are afraid to damage the relationship. But in reality, you will probably take even greater care of those business opportunities that can come from this family and friends.
Now let’s move on to how you can stimulate the leads you need for your business from your network
5. What have you done for me lately?
No this isn’t what you should say to your contacts; it is however what they may be thinking about you. If you have fed those in your network with plenty of leads, helped them with issues they’ve struggling with, given them valuable insight or knowledge etc they will feel compelled to reciprocate. This requires you to keep in touch with them and be interested in what is happening in their life and business. Read this article about what to do to get repeat referrals from others.
6. Do people really know what you do?
Your contacts may have a rough idea about what you do, but do they recognise the needs and issues you solve with your expertise or business offering?
When you are with contacts, try and subtly educate them on the typical things you help with and the positive outcomes your customers/clients get from your involvement. This is more likely to stick in a contact’s mind rather than you reeling off a list of services to them.
Explain the triggers that point to your expertise or business offering so, when a contact comes across a friend or business contact facing that issue, they automatically recommend you. And be prepared to expand your knowledge of your contacts’ triggers so you can reciprocate and help them. Here are some other ideas to avoid getting pigeon-holed for just one area of your expertise.
7. Be sure you’re a safe pair of hands
If you want contacts to refer time and time again, you have to do an excellent job with the leads they bring to you. That includes, not only delighting these customers but also keeping your contact in the communication loop so they know their professional judgement in recommending you isn’t being undermined.
Perfect the art of under-promising and over-delivering (rather than the other way around) so you always exceed expectations and deliver high-quality output. Build up visual proof of your great approach by encouraging referrals, testimonials and endorsements on the likes of Google Reviews and LinkedIn. And don’t forget to thank your contacts for any leads they pass your way. See this article for some more ideas on how to encourage contacts to recommend you.
8. Keep in touch
We are all very busy and it’s easy to drop out of touch with a contact for several months. During that time, they or you may be working on a business opportunity that you could both benefit from.
So diarise ways to keep in regular contact with your contacts. You don’t want to be continually in their face, but you do want to remain on their radar. There are numerous keeping in touch ways to choose from.
Pick channels of communication they most engage with and also vary them to remain fresh and interesting. Try using social media updates (responding to theirs as much as broadcasting your own), send them valuable insight, pass business opportunities their way, give them special offers, ring them from time to time, meet them socially etc.
Don’t forget to sprinkle in face-to-face contact as it enables a greater dialogue between the two of you from which business opportunities are more likely to flow.
You don’t have to be an extrovert or ooze charisma to establish a rock-solid referral network. You do, however, have to have a genuine interest in the people in your network and want to support them.
This is one of the reasons why it’s sensible to go for quality rather than quantity when building your network. You want to be with these people for the long run and, if you flit in and out of your relationship with them, they’re unlikely to send decent business opportunities your way.
Do also stick with people even when they change roles, as the next job down the line may well need your services/products. It may also mean they become a valuable source for another contact in your network.
And finally, be patient – rock-solid referral networks take time to build and if you’re expecting sales to come straight away you risk showing this in your attitude and actions. People will sense your impatience and be put off.
For more advice on marketing your business contact us or tel. 01483 429111.