5 Tips to Get More and Better Referrals
“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends”, Walt Disney 9/4/2018 | Gregg Emmer, Marketing Matters
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Referrals are without a doubt the best way to grow a business and can improve the reputation of the quality of your work more than any other advertising, prospecting, or marketing you can do. As with most things that involve people’s personal feelings, a little thought and understanding of underlying psychology helps.

Tip #1, Timing is important.

When I did some live training I asked the attendees when they ask for referrals. A full third said they ask at their first meeting with a customer. The rest of the group were split between “whenever” and “I don’t ask for referrals”. The first tip to get more and better referrals is to ask for the referral when your client/customer is completely happy with you and the work you are doing for them. Where in the sales cycle is not important. If you have just gotten a proof approved and the client was thrilled - ask for referrals! If you delivered a finished project and your client is bragging to others about the fine work - ask for referrals! If you did the impossible and delivered in record time - you get it.

By making your requests when the timing is right you will find that your client is more willing to give referrals and they will have no (or less) concerns with tip number 2.

Tip #2, Insure that your customer is not embarrassed.

When a client makes a referral, they are also making an endorsement. Through you, one of their associates is going to be told that you were ‘recommended’ to contact them by someone they know and respect. That third party’s reputation is on the line. When working a referral you have to redouble your efforts to insure that everything goes perfectly. You will get both a happy client and additional referrals from them.

Tip #3, Use your media and give an incentive.

The promotional advertising, specialty marketing, recognition, reward, gift and incentive business we are in allows us to use this media and simultaneously demonstrate the effectiveness of the work we do. Offering a client a “gift” as a thank you for a referral reinforces that you feel their referral has value, builds your relationship with them and demonstrates the power of the work you do. Food gifts and desktop items work well. Be willing to give something that has a good perceived value and remember you are also showing your client something they may consider doing for their own business later.

Tip # 4, Keep things simple.

All you need is a name. If you are offered additional information certainly add that to your notes. Every additional bit of information you ask for increases the worry that your client might be putting their reputation on the line.

Even understanding that a referral by its nature is a recommendation from a specific individual, always ask if it is alright to mention your client’s name as the source of the referral. That shows respect and there is virtually no chance they will say no after already giving you the referral.

Tip #5, Don’t focus on products or prices.

Your client is happy with you because they expect that the work you do will build their business, not that you shaved 15% off their price! When you ask for referrals your question should be “Are there any of your friends and associates that might consider growing their business working with me as you have done?”.

Approaching referrals in this very professional way allows clients to think about you as they do other professionals (their accountant, doctor, etc.) and people generally like recommending the highly skilled people they have identified to others. You want to be in that same class.

The State of the Industry edition of Counselor magazine indicated that 82% of distributors say they rely on referrals to build their business. When responses from the largest distributors are broken out that number jumps to 91%.

The majority of distributors and sales professionals in the promotional industry that I have had contact with do not have a formal routine when it comes to asking for referrals. This all but guarantees that they are missing out on some very important new business. Make asking for referrals a part of your normal daily business and you will find that results from new accounts acquired from referrals consistently produce better orders and profit than new business generated from any other source. When you don’t need to overcome the ‘trust’ (or lack of trust) element always present in new relationships, your new client will be comfortable with you quickly since it was their friend that sent you there.

Gregg Emmer is chief marketing officer and vice president at Kaeser & Blair, Inc. He has more than 40 years experience in marketing and the promotional products industry. His outside consultancy provides marketing, public relations and business planning consulting to a wide range of other businesses and has been a useful knowledge base for K&B Dealers. Contact Gregg at gemmer@kaeser-blair.com.
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