No doubt you’ve asked a friend or colleague to recommend a good plumber or physician, but did you ever think of asking them to refer others to your business?
Although most businesspeople understand the value of referrals, many report that they get less than half their business through them, according to a recent survey. Furthermore, most people thought they could attract more business through referrals than they already were.
"If you really want your business to prosper, you should have a structured plan for getting referrals from your contacts, just as you would have a planned advertising campaign in place," says Robert Davis, co-author of Business By Referral: A Sure-Fire Way to Generate New Business (Bard Press, $15.95). "If you follow this system, you’ll never have to make a cold call again." The book’s other author is Ivan R. Misner, Ph.D., founder of Business Network International (BNI), the largest referral organization in the country, which holds weekly meetings for members to exchange business referrals. Davis offers the best ways your contacts can assist you (and you can assist them) to boost business:
- Familiarize prospects. Provide prospects with your information. In this way, they will expect your call and already have a familiarity with your business. Roxy Roberson, a travel consultant for Lunar Travel in San Dimas, California, and member of BNI, received a referral from an attorney in her group, which garnered her two bookings (and a new attorney). Members in the group carry one another’s business cards.
- Distribute your information. Contacts can pass out flyers or other promotional pieces and offer your business coupons. One member in Roberson’s group puts members’ business cards on a display board for clients to pick up.
- Make an announcement. If one of your contacts belongs to an organization or group you’d like to target, ask him or her to announce an event you are involved in or a sale your business might be conducting. As the first black female member of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, BNI member Stacia Robinson is in a critical position to make (and receive) referrals for her contacts. "You have to give business to get business," says Robinson, the Alabama representative for PowerLines Advertising and Design. "Networking through the chamber has resulted in greater visibility and credibility for my business."
- Facilitate introductions. Contacts can introduce you to specific individuals in person or coordinate a meeting on your behalf. Your contact can attend the meeting with you to help put everyone at ease. Robinson is constantly introduced to prospects this way, which has proved to be lucrative. "One client is potentially worth $40,000-$50,000 in business to me because we do a full media campaign-radio, print, television, magazines and newspapers," says Robinson.
- Provide testimonials for your products/services. Your clients are the best sources for this: they can effectively tell others what they’ve gained from using your products/
- services in presentations, conversations, promotional literature or articles. Roberson and group members visit one another’s businesses to