Your best customers are those who love doing business with you, and can't say enough good things about you. EMyth defines these customers as your "advocates." Looking at your overall sales strategy, are you remembering to leverage these precious resources? If not, why?
Asking your advocates for referrals
Is your referral program reactive, or proactive? In other words, is your system set up to passively wait until someone decides to give you a name, or do you actively ask for the referrals?
Some business owners fear that asking for referrals will make them sound desperate or needy, or that they will be bothering their advocates if they ask. This concern, however, couldn't be more off the mark; your advocates want to give you referrals because they want their friends and associates to have the same great service that they've experienced!
What are you offering?
Do your advocates even know that you have a referral program, or understand what it offers? For the most part, customers won't make time to investigate your referral program, so you need to make it as simple, friendly and rewarding for them as possible.
When offering a reward to your advocates in return for their referrals, you'll want to do research to understand what they're motivated by. Some enjoy receiving gifts, discounts, or free services, while others are more gratified by receiving recognition and special attention. The rewards you choose should be based from the information you've gathered about your target market and how they are gratified.
What do you say to your referrals?
Once you've gathered the names of new referrals, how do you approach them? Jeffrey H. Gitomer in "The Sales Bible" wrote a section focused on this topic. His techniques and strategies are to the point with clear examples. He said the best way to optimize your chance for success with these referrals is to arrange a three-way meeting between you, the advocate and the referral, because an in-person meeting is the strongest way to build rapport quickly.
Gitomer also says to do your homework. Gather as much information as you can about the referral before making the first contact; this will help when making a first impression and give you a couple of things to talk about. Then, within 24 hours, write a personal note telling him or her that it was nice to get acquainted with them and that you're looking forward to the next meeting.
Make an impression
If, on the other hand, you introduce yourself to the referral through a cold call, there are other techniques that you can employ. First, Gitomer says to never fall into the trap of starting your conversation by saying something like, "Hello, I was given your name by..." because it sounds rather boring. He says to try this approach instead:
"Hi (hey), my name is Jeffrey, my company is ... and you don't know me from a sack of potatoes. I've been doing business with (name of your advocate) for some time now, and she thought I might be able to help you in the same way I've helped her. I'm told you're interested in .... (or) I've heard your business does ... and I just wanted to touch base and introduce myself. I'd love to get your address to send you some information I think you'll find of interest."
Remember, your referral system should differentiate your business from all of your competitors out there. If you make your communication friendly, can get them to laugh, and can build up a personal rapport - then you'll have an excellent chance of creating a positive and long lasting relationship with your referrals.
Some companies also take the approach of modeling their referral program after VIP services, whereby referrals are extended an exclusive invitation to join the program. The outcome of this approach is that the referral will appreciate being treated extra special, and will feel that they're important and part of something unique.
Your potential new customers will be "WOW-ed," and your advocates will be pleased to see that they've made the right decision in referring their friends to you, and won't hesitate to tell even more people about you.
Tap into the power of referrals
The bottom line is that whatever your advocates are saying about your business is much more credible than any advertising that you're paying for. Therefore, the smart strategy is to start looking for ways to be proactive in seeking out your referrals, rather than just passively hoping referrals will come looking for you.
Think about what tools your employees need to effectively talk about your referral program so that it's easy and rewarding for your advocates to take action. Getting referrals from your advocates is a powerful, and cost effective, sales strategy -- one you would be remiss in not employing.