If you regularly read my articles you’ll know that I’m a big fan of networking as a way of promoting your business, and you’ll have seen some of the articles where I talk about how to network.
So if you’ve developed (or started) a network of lovely people, I want to talk about how you can encourage people to send you business. Getting referrals has in some ways got a bit of bad reputation, because it’s seen as a hard sell, and people don’t respond well to anyone who is trying too hard to sell them something.
But you do need to make the most of your network to bring you, customers – otherwise all you’ve got is a bunch of people who are almost friends.
So how do you get referrals?
There are lots of techniques for encouraging people to send you referrals. This is my basic philosophy of how to do it.
Firstly make sure that people understand what you do. If you’re a plumber, it should be relatively easy for people to get a grip on what you do, but even for a concept that we can all follow, people in your network need to be clear on whether you’re a plumber who can fix my leaky tap, or if you are a plumber who subcontracts to the big building firms, employs 10 other plumbers and wants to build the best plumbing firm in London.
So the next thing people need to understand is – who do you want to meet? Who is your ideal client? There’s little point people sending me referrals of little businesses unless that business wants to grow into a substantially bigger business because I specialise in developing businesses. It’s just not worthwhile for someone to work with me (or to pay me) if they’re only going ever going to turn over 30k a year. I want to meet people who are ambitious with their business and want to grow.
So you need to be clear with the people in your network who you want them to send to you. It’s okay to be upfront and say “my ideal client is….” This is one of the exercises I do with clients all the time, to clarify who you want to meet. And of course this might change over time, so you need to review it and make sure you keep up to date.
It’s okay to ask for referrals
We’re often very shy about asking people to send people to us. But when you’re dealing with other business people, they understand that you need customers, because they need customers too.
One great tip is to go through your address book (because you’ve been keeping it up to date with all the people that you’ve met through networking, haven’t you) and pick out the people that you feel comfortable asking for a favour. Then email them, and ask them to think of three people they know who fit your picture of an ideal client.
Give them a bit of ammunition about what you do and how you can help these people, and ask them to recommend people.
Sending out a couple of dozen personalised emails like this can be your work for a morning, and can keep you in work for months.
Thank the people who send you referrals
And don’t forget to thank the people who do send you referrals. I recommended Fay Macdonald recently, and Fay sent me a box of my favourite Rooiboos tea in the post – a very nice touch from a classy lady, and of course, I’ll be happy to recommend Fay again.
Photo credits to Joshua Ness and Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash