Using referrals to gain new business
“That coat looks great, where did you get it?” “Do you have the number for that builder you used for your house extension?” “I went to that new bistro by the station yesterday, you should try it”. Referrals are part of everyday life, we ask friends for recommendations and recommend places to our friends. But do you make the most of referrals in business?
Business is like the rest of life
You are happy to recommend a builder, a restaurant or a film so why not a supplier in business? The truth is most customers you have done a good job for are more then happy to make recommendations, but you usually have to ask. And you have to make it easy for them.
Old school methods and how to use digital
Digital referrals especially using LinkedIn can be very powerful but first of all let’s look at a more traditional way of getting a referral. What you want is for your customer to refer you to a specific prospect saying what a great job you have done for them.
The first thing to get right is the timing. You need to wait long enough for the customer to see what you have actually done and be pleased with it, but if you wait too long they may be less motivated to do you a favour.
Make it easy for them
Here is the process I follow and recommend to you.
If possible, ask them in person (at a meeting for instance) or by phone if they will recommend you – it’s easier to ignore an email than a personal call
Then write them a letter or email asking them to recommend you to a specific contact
Include in the letter the text you want them to send – make it flattering to you but don’t exaggerate
Below is the kind of letter I mean to ask for a recommendation, but this is just an example.
The Internet is becoming increasingly important in all parts of our life and certainly in selling. The sites that matter may vary depending on your business but for most people, at the moment, LinkedIn is the most important site.
First get your own profile sorted. I will probably write a whole blog on just this before long but for now just make sure your profile is up to date and relevant to the target customer you are hoping to be referred to. While you are at it, take a good look at the prospects’ profile.
Then, this is the process for targeting people who are outside your existing network.
The number of times you can do this depends on your LinkedIn membership. It is very limited if you have a free membership but you can pay to upgrade and increase the number of introductions you can send.
You can also ask your network for recommendations which you can publish on your profile. You can send up to 200 requests for a recommendation via LinkedIn emails and you can read them and choose to publish on your profile or not.
What’s in it for them?
The best way to get recommendations is to give them – this applies especially to LinkedIn. I would strongly recommend writing a recommendation for someone on LinkedIn before you ask for something back. As for off line recommendations, you are asking for a favour so make it clear you are happy to do a similar favour in return.
Recommendations on what to do next
Review and refresh your LinkedIn profile
Make sure all your satisfied customers are invited to join your network
Look at who is in their network and identify potential target customers
Decide if an approach through LinkedIn or by email is the most likely to succeed
Go get that introduction!
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