Article #45, May, 2006
Build a Referral Engine
Do you want to work as hard as you do forever?? You do have options, and one is a building a referral engine. A referral engine is a systematic approach to receiving quality referrals that turn into customers, regularly.
One important part of assuring getting referrals from your current and past customers, is to give exemplary customer service. This means that you answer the phone with a smile, every time it rings, and return calls quickly. It also means that if your customer is dissatisfied in any way, you do whatever needs to be done to make it right.
For service businesses, be as flexible as you can. If the client needs to change an appointment and you can, then change it. In general, as long as it doesn't damage your business, give the customer what they want, and even exceed their expectations. Your industry will define what exemplary customer service means to some extent.
Also, continue making it very clear to everyone who your target is. In this way, all of your business contacts will associate you with your clearly identified target, and when they meet that person, they'll automatically think of you.
Although people really like to refer business, they're busy and don't always think of it. You need to remind them! Ask your clientele for their referrals. One effective technique to subtly remind everyone that you want their referrals is to put a request as a "P.S." in your email signature. Asking your clients directly is also very effective.
So, give exemplary customer service, communicate your target very clearly to everyone and ask for their referrals. So far, so good.
One more specific technique you can use is to ask for referrals during the sales meeting. "Do you know of anyone else who might benefit from my service/product?"
Finally, make sure your potential referral sources know how to refer business to you! In my experience, it works best to have the referral source ask permission for you to call the prospect. That way, you retain control. Of course, that's not always possible, but it works very well.
If you are stuck on what to say in these situations, send me an email! I'd love to hear from you and offer you some advice.