Networking and Referral Marketing are two keys strategies for most small businesses. Not everybody uses these strategies, but most do. Whether they are going to a Business Networking International (BNI) lead referral group or to the local Chamber of Commerce, these activities are common. There is a good reason. Referrals bring in what are relatively high quality, warm leads. The person you are going to speak to has most often agreed to talk to you explicitly. They have expressed an interest in the type of service or product that you are offering. They have an immediate or near-term need. So, close rates are high and stress is low.
The challenge is that few people look at the amount of time and energy to actually get a referral. Now there are some systems like Yelp! that can “help” with that. But generally, people only refer businesses that they have experience with or know something about. They don’t want their customer or friend to have a bad experience with the referral. So you have to build trust to be able to get quality referrals.
All of this takes time. So, you need to analyze is going to be a good partner for you to work with and why they might refer business your way. When you look at it critically, it breaks down into two categories: Prospects and Customer or People who sell to the same people you do. Those are the core groups of people who are likely to know multiple people that you are going to be trying to reach out to.
Please note the “multiple” in that sentence. You could spend an hour cold calling to get an appointment. It will take more time than that to build the kind of trust relationship that I am talking about. That means you need to expect more than one referral. If you have set up a formal customer referral plan, you can get away with just one. But even then, you would like to become a chain of referrals from that one place. It will not always be so but you need to find those places to maximize your time.
Finally, there is the need to find a real partner. Many people are happy to enter referral relationships where they receive the benefit of the referrals. The challenge is to find people that will reciprocate. Where can the two of you look like a bigger company together and foster an abundance of business? So be thoughtful about the partner and think about how you can be helping them. Not everyone will fit and that is okay. Think about who might be a good fit and talk to them. The conversation will help you know about who is interested in actually partnering. There is no point in spending time trying to cultivate a partner who is not going to be work with you.
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