As solo business owners, we sometimes feel like “Lone Rangers” on our own, trying to figure out ways to bring in more clients. A business owner’s survival and growth depends largely on bringing in new clients. Who wants to be alone on the range, single-handedly trying to figure out how to bring in clients and expand business? That takes tremendous energy, and hard work to produce average results.
Instead of operating on your own, there are ways to creating a sales force of people happy to refer business to you. Think about how big companies increase their sales. They have large sales forces out there selling their products. The sales people are educated about the product, calling on prospects, and are paid commissions based on the number of accounts they bring in. One of the differences between a big company and you is that YOU are the “one.” You are your sales force, that is, if you operate as a “Lone Ranger.”
An effective way of creating your sales force is through your referral network. A referral network is a group of people who already know you, understand your business, and can refer people interested in buying your product or service. With a powerful referral network, an unlimited flow of quality prospects start coming to you quickly and effortlessly. You never have to cold-call again! This is the easiest and most effective way to establish an ongoing stream of warm leads.
Building a referral network begins with educating people you already know, your clients, colleagues, friends, and people you meet. You want to clearly articulate what you do, who your ideal client is, how your product or service helps your clients, and what’s unique about working with you. Once these people are educated about your product, they become your own “sales force.” However, just like any sales force, it helps to motivate them to sell by giving them something special as a thank you.
Consider offering a referral fee or a special gift to those people who refer business to you. People will be motivated to refer business to you, if they’re rewarded for it. I know, as a sales person, what motivated me the most to bring in those sales was the commission check I received at the end of the month. And, I still love receiving those checks. I’ve been referring business to a colleague and I’m delighted when I receive a thank you note and check from him. It’s an incentive to think of other people who can benefit from his service.
By organizing a healthy referral network, you’re going to be able to rely on other people out in the world, all educated about the merits of your product or service, willing to become your marketing machine.
Here are six steps to follow that will help you set up a powerful referral network.
1. Change Your Mindset: For some people, there’s hesitancy when it comes to asking for referral business. We have thoughts like, “They won’t want to help me,” or “How do I even ask?” Before you project these fears, step back and consider. If a customer’s satisfied with you, they’re delighted to help you out. Also, people in your personal and professional circle who believe in you, want to help you grow.
2. Be Proactive: Rather than waiting for people to offer referrals, ask, because more than likely, they don’t think to offer. Occasionally, they may say to you “I told my friend about you.” It’s really great when that happens, but don’t rely on it.
3. Write What You Want to Say: To help you gain confidence, write the words you want to say. Then practice saying it aloud until you’re comfortable with it. We all feel uncomfortable doing something new. It’s just like going to the health club and working out. You have to use that muscle over and over again in order to build strength. It’s the same thing with asking for referrals.
4. When to Ask a Client: The best time to ask a client for a referral is immediately after you’ve received a compliment, and/or once the sale is closed. Once your client utters the words, “I’m happy working with you. I really have enjoyed this.” That’s your cue to ask if there’s anyone else they know who would benefit in the same way from your services.
5. Referrals Fees: Establish a referral program whereby people receive a referral fee or special gift for the people they refer to you. Let your referral network know in advance what they can expect in return for their referrals. Giving referrals works both ways. If people refer business to you, tell them you will do the same for them.
6. Keep Track: Once the steady flow of referrals starts coming in, it’s time to start managing all these leads in an organized manner. There are several software programs designed to you help track your business and referrals. Outlook, ACT, and Goldmine are several software programs to check out.
* Write a clear and compelling message of what you do, who your ideal client is, how your product or service helps your clients, and what’s unique about working with you.
* Practice saying it aloud and role play with a buddy until you are comfortable saying the words.
* Start calling the people in your personal and professional circle, educate them about what you do, and invite them to be part of your “Referral Network.”
* Ask your buddy to role play being the client and practice “asking for a referral.”
* Create a “referral fee or special gift” program you can start offering to your clients, colleagues, friends, and people you meet.