7 tips to generate a consistent stream of referrals

Referrals. Why else are far too many business owners dragging themselves out of bed in the wee small hours to attend breakfast networking clubs? It’s definitely not for the breakfast!

Most business owners I speak to want to find the magic silver bullet for their business – ie how to create a consistent stream of high quality referrals.

Think about it: how much time and money would you save, if you were able to systematically generate referrals from warmed-up prospects who were keen to buy from your business?

Many business owners lust after these referrals, but only a tiny percentage have actually cracked the code that will unlock this permanent drip drip drip of referrals into their business. So what are switched on business owners actually doing to create the ideal conditions for continual referral generation?

1. Specific about what they are looking for

Do you actually know what the ideal referral for your business is? If you don’t know what you’re looking for, how do you expect other people to be able to provide you with the right type of referrals?

When I talk about being specific, the more specific the better. If you just want to meet “business owners who need my services”, it makes it much harder for people to know who or what you are looking for.

“Business owners who need my services could be anyone who owns a business.” I bet you’ve not thought of anyone in your network based on that description. However, if you can break down “business owner” into, say, business owners who are fed up with the costs of advertising, and just starting out with networking as their main business development strategy for their business… I bet you can already think of a few in your network. (Please pass this article on to them!)

2. Recruit an army of advocates

The biggest mistake that most business owners make when networking is to go out prospecting for clients.

People don’t go networking to be sold to – and if you go networking with the main aim of finding new clients, I bet you will come away with a set of business cards and not many people who will take your phone call.

Your aim when networking is to recruit a massive unpaid sales force for your business. This sales force is going to be your eyes and ears on the ground. Think how much bigger the return on your networking investment is going to be, if you put your energy into planting fruit trees rather than trying to go out and kill bears?

3. Educate their advocates

Before your advocates can routinely start passing you high quality referrals, they need to know how to spot a potential referral for you. This means that they need to know the services you provide, what problems you solve for what type of people – and the typical results you tend to achieve. They also need to know what the rational and emotional barriers are – and how to overcome these barriers – for people wanting to use your business’s services and products.

Take your time in one-to-one conversations with key members of your network, to do this education process – and make sure you reciprocate and actively educate yourself about their business, and their ideal referral.

4. Actively manage their credibility

When someone gives you a referral, they are personally risking their reputation. So, make sure that you are confident in the service that you can provide for others. As well as the success stories, you need to make sure that your web presence also provides reassurance that you know what you are doing – and are able to deliver on your promises.

5. Provide referrals for others

Referral generation is heavily reliant on the social capital you create with others. Social capital is very similar to financial capital – in so far as you can create it, store it and lose it.

To accumulate social capital you need to be prepared to regularly help out people within your network – and it is no surprise that the members of referral generation groups who get the most referrals, are the ones who are regularly providing referrals for members of the group.

6. Routinely ask for referrals

It’s a very simple way of generating referrals – but are you actually asking for them? Yes, are you regularly asking members of your network and existing clients for “who do you know who needs our services?”

Do you have a referral generation programme, which rewards and thanks members of your network for a successful referral? It doesn’t need to be something with a high monetary value, but someone that demonstrates how much you appreciate the referral.

7. Provide excellent client service to your existing clients

Your current clients are often the best advocates for your services – but this is reliant on you consistently delivering on the promises and expectations. Before you actively start using your current client list to ask for referrals, make sure you can cope with your current workload.

What have I missed out?

Heather Townsend, Britain’s queen of networking, helps professionals achieve business and career success using social media and networking. Follow her Joined Up Networking blog for more useful tips and tricks. She is the author of the current best-selling book on networking The Financial Times Guide To Business Networking which has 68 five-star reviews on Amazon.

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