From experience I have found that one of the cheapest and most effective ways to grow my business is through referrals. However, I am also aware that this doesn’t happen overnight -you need to remember the old saying “if you don’t ask you won’t get!” It is amazing what happens when you do ask the question. Often people will think to themselves that you’ve completed a great job, however referring and recommending is just not front of their mind. Hence the importance of asking.
When I coach clients in growing their business I have noticed some key fears people have with asking for referrals:
• That they will look desperate by asking for work
• Some think “Why would they send work to me?”
• Some fear they are so busy already they won’t be able to handle any more work- so don’t ask
• Some think “I am not good at talking to people.”
From my point of view:
• Asking for a referral does not look desperate it looks proactive.
• If you are good at what you do or have good products, you should be proud to tell others.
• If you are too busy this can be fixed with better systems, better time management or by adding more people.
• Articulating what you do and how your service or product is of value just takes practice and is something you will get better at each and every time you do it.
From experience referrals can come from many sources. The advice I always give is that generally like attracts like. Therefore if you like dealing with someone, ask them. I have had referrals from many different sources, including people who looked after my business’s stationery orders. Basically anyone can be a referrer providing they know what you do, are confident in your abilities and know someone that needs your service or products.
With this in mind perhaps a goal for the New Year for your business could be to have plans to implement strategies to increase your referrals. Some strategies you may need to implement are:
1. Customer Service. With existing clients/customers the best way to attract referrals is by giving them exceptional service. If your clients are happy they are more likely to refer you to others, and you feel more confident to ask for referrals.
2. Close Connections. With family and friends it’s a bit easier because you already have a close relationship however, don’t assume that they understand what you do or know that you are looking to grow your business.
3. Speak Strategically. One of the biggest mistakes we are all guilty of is when asked how we are going the first thing we say is “flat out” or “swamped.” The assumption then is that you would not want any more work so they don’t think to refer you to others. Instead you should say that you are busy but always looking for new work.
4. Networking Events. Meeting with other people in business, people who work with your target market. However, don’t expect to attend one event and receive a referral. You need to build the relationship first. Perhaps meet for coffee after the event, or attend a groups events for a couple of months in a row.
In summary the key is to believe in what you and your business do and communicate to others that you or your product are what they need. Give it a try – you might be surprised with the results.