Here are nine things you need to do to put your business in a position to attract more high-quality clients through referrals. If you can establish all, or most, of these strategies as solid habits, you’ll create an unlimited supply of high-quality referrals:
1. Treat the entire referral process with importance.
How you send it out to the world is how it will come back to you. Make sure you create enough time to have a good conversation about referrals. Be on a mission to bring your valuable service to others. As you begin the referral conversations, say something like, “I have an important question to ask you.”
2. Earn the right to get referrals through the “process” you put your clients through.
Bring value quickly to every prospect and exceed your clients’ expectations. Think “process,” not “products.” Selling a product or handling a transaction does not make you referable. Putting people through a process—getting them to think about the “big picture”—does.
3. Have a client-service model that drives contact with your clients.
Most financial professionals don’t use a formal client-service model. When it comes to staying in touch with their clients, they wing it. Guess what? Your clients can tell if you’re winging it. If you want to maintain a high level of client loyalty and remain referable over a long period of time, you have to stay in touch with your clients on two levels: 1) Continue to bring value to your relationships (or you’re no longer necessary); and 2) Build business friendships with your clients. Hosting client appreciation events shield your clients again from the competition.
4. Create your own personal sales force with Centers of Influence (COIs).
You probably have one or two COIs who have the ability to send you referrals. If you have one or two, why not 10 or 12? Think like an entrepreneur. Create your own sales force. Teach your COIs how well you take care of your clients and the value you bring to your clients, what types of people you serve the best (use an ideal client profile), and the best way for them to give you their referrals.
5. Expand your results by targeting niches.
The best way to create a reputation is to narrow your focus to a group that has formal and informal ways of communicating with each other. When you target a niche, you can serve this market better and become more valuable; then the referrals flow. Tell one or more of your small business clients that you’re thinking about targeting other businesses like theirs. You’ll be amazed at the introductions you’ll receive.
6. Let all your “A” and “B” clients know you work from introductions and you value their help in bringing your value to others.
Do all your “A” and “B” clients know that you’re accepting new clients and that you value their help in reaching others who will benefit from knowing you? Do they only see you being really busy—sending them the unconscious message that you can’t take on any more clients? Be on a mission to serve, and let everyone know about it.
7. Upgrade the quality of your referrals by learning as much as you can about your new prospect.
Don’t just settle for a name and phone number. In fact, in this new do-not-call world, you’ll need more than that. The person who just gave you a referral is a great source of information that can help you make a better connection. Learn as much as you can about your new prospect before you contact them, such as how they know each other, why it might be a good match, how the prospect might react to the referral, the best way to contact them, what you can do to pique their interest, and what your referral source likes or admires about the prospect.
8. Keep your referral source advised with how you are following up on their help.
When someone gives you a referral, there are three things you MUST do to keep the referrals coming from that source:
1) Follow up on every referral you get as soon as possible.
2) Let your source know you are following up on their help.
3) Thank your referral source with a handwritten note and a small gift.
9. Expect to get referrals.
Don’t go into your relationships with prospects and new clients wishing and hoping you’ll get referrals. The work you do is extremely important. Be on a confident mission of service to others. Let that confidence show through. Enroll others in your mission.