Eric Ruth & Sean Greely NPE – Advanced Referral Marketing
If you run a company, lead a sales and marketing team, or sell for a living, you know that referrals are your best source of new business.
Nothing beats an introduction from a peer who knows what you offer to a prospect who needs you now.
No matter how strong your sales skills, marketing programs, or products and services, a referral to a qualified prospect often determines if you close the sale or just try.
If most buyers turn to colleagues they trust for recommendations when making a purchase, who do yours turn to?
If referrals are a business’ best way to grow, why don’t we further develop our strengths and seek out more and better referrals? Instead too many businesses lament the lousy referrals offered by well-meaning business friends. Rather than launch a costly and risky sales or marketing effort, why not upgrade what has gotten you where you are today?
The Basics of Getting Referred
To review, there are some critical ingredients to getting a referral. You must:
Provide specific value to a defined target prospect. If you do not have a Best and Highest Use® define yours now or you will be referred as a commodity.
Be excellent. Always build your track record of quality work and results.
Stay known to referees. Communicate with them regularly and with new and valuable information.
Be trusted. Prove to your referral sources you will treat them and their referrals with respect.
While these fundamentals never go out of style, enough people practice them well enough that distinguishing your “referability” now takes extra steps.
Five Steps to Advanced Referral Marketing
To grow better and get more referrals, here are five steps you can take now:
Determine Your Referral Objective
Understand Your Prospects’ Buying Process and Then Align Your Selling Process and Referrer’s Role
Define the Ideal Relationship Your Referral Source Should Have With Your Buyer
Give Referrals to Get Referrals
Develop Specific Tools and Tactics
Here are the five steps in detail:
Determine Your Referral Objective. Are you clear on where in your sales and marketing effort you need a referral and for what purpose? Do you need help finding, keeping or growing your existing business? Do you need an introduction, validation, or affirmation from your referee? At which point in your sales funnel are you most in need of their support? Is it in qualifying prospects or developing prospects? For help in determining this, review the PACER Process by clicking here.
Understand Your Prospects’ Buying Process and Then Align Your Selling Process and Referrer’s Role. Understanding your customers’ buying process is not new but applying this knowledge in obtaining referrals might be. Where can your referrers have the most impact?
If your business is a relationship or an anniversary business, your referral sources need to be constantly cultivating your prospects for you, but if your business is more transactional or event-driven, then you want your referees to be far more opportunistic and pounce when they see the chance to recommend you. Here are two articles to help you decide this. Click here and here. Once you understand the role your referral sources play in your prospect’s buying process, you will of course align your selling process to parallel their behavior. And the role that your referees need to play will be clear.
Define the Ideal Relationship Your Referral Source Should Have With Your Buyer. What are the ideal referral sources for your business? For example, some businesses enjoy most of their referrals from law or accounting firms while others are best referred by suppliers or even their competitors. To determine who is best for you, understand the role your referral source plays with your prospects and why a prospect would accept their referring you to them. For example, a parts supplier is unlikely to refer a financial planner to a purchasing agent because this is not a likely topic for them to discuss. Consider whether your referral source has the sufficient trust and professional intimacy with your prospect to make such a referral. For example, a specialist can often refer another specialist while another specialist will seldom refer a generalist. Also, your referral sources must see you as a scarce commodity as opposed to being abundant. If every business broker is hounding every banker to refer them their next deal, how can anyone care or remember which one to refer to whom? The 80/20 rule applies just as much as to referees. A few will refer a majority of your leads and most will only refer you once. Understand who falls into which groups and why. Finally, make it as easy as possible to refer you. I provide any referral source with the following description of my target prospect and exactly why when and how they would hire me. Come up with your own example along the following lines as I have in my business.
A target prospect for Birol Growth Consulting is a majority owner/operator of a business who is:
Dissatisfied with his or her business status quo. (as good or bad as it may be)
Eager to get to the next level and wants to
Accelerate Their Business’s Growth
Grow Their Business Through a Transfer of Leadership
Refocus Their Business to Grow
Willing to take outside advice
Willing to pay for outside advice
Give Referrals to Get Referrals. Apply the Golden Rule in your referral activities. Generously and freely give away as many referrals as possible. While many will disagree, I urge you not to take or give commissions or fees for referring business. The time you put into developing a fair scheme is not worth the loss of trust you face when your peers learn you are making money off of whom you referred to them. Despite many opinions to the contrary, do not enter into tying, exclusive relationships or “Circles of Influence” with only one referral source such as a single law firm. Your power in referring and being referred comes from being able to match the right people with the best skills and style. There is no one size fits all here. But most importantly, remember who did refer you, follow up and keep them posted on how your or their referral faired. There is nothing more disappointing to refer or be referred and never hear what happened. If you do refer someone constantly and there is never any reciprocity, ask yourself if you have fulfilled the basics as outlined above. Before getting annoyed with your non-responder, ensure you have refocused on the basics, if you have, then it is time to find new advocates.
Develop Specific Referral Tools and Tactics. Make it easy for your referral sources to refer you. One of the great tools is the reciprocal referral letter. Attached at the bottom of this article is a sample letter you can send, one-for-one, with a mutually referable source. Making it one -for-one is fun, as it challenges both parties to provide great referrals and then to hone their selling skills in obtaining as many appointments, proposals, and closed sales as possible.
Find ways to donate your services to charities so that your referral sources can place you in highly visible venues. Serve as a subject matter expert for their customers where you can showcase your expertise while helping your referral source’s clients.
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