Referrals are often the most profitable way to gain new customers. And the only way to get referrals is through other people in your network.
I’ve found that most networkers only focus on existing clients as their main source for business referrals. However, there are seven other referral sources which can also be developed to generate opportunities for new referrals.
- Satisfied Clients
One of your best referral sources is satisfied clients. Having firsthand experience with your products or services, they are true believers and can give convincing testimonials about you. Stay in touch with these customers; they are your top fans, your best promoters, and they can be very effective in helping others decide to do business with you.
- People in Your Contact Sphere
A Contact Sphere is a group of businesses and professions that complement, rather than compete with, your business. Each of them has customers who can benefit from the services of the others. For instance: event planner, caterer, photographer, and florist.
- People Whose Business Benefits from Yours
These are the people who get more business when you get more business: your suppliers and vendors. If you sell workbooks, the printer who prints them for you benefits. It is in these other businesses’ self-interest to give you referrals.
- Others with Whom You Do Business
Think about the people you go to for your personal and professional needs. Your own business may not have anything to do with dentistry or hairstyling or automobiles, but in your everyday life you do business with a dentist, a hairstylist, auto mechanic, and many more. If you’ve been using their services for some time, they probably know what you do and that you’re a reliable, trustworthy person. Sometimes this is all the recommendation a potential client needs.
- Staff Members
Except for customers, no one understands better than staff members how your products or services perform. Every member of your staff from all departments gives your business a boost when they talk with their friends, neighbors, and people they meet in their daily lives. Remember that working for your company will always be a part of your former staff members’ history, too, and is often part of their conversation with prospects as well.
- People to Whom You’ve Given Referrals
You’re more likely to get a referral from someone to whom you’ve given a referral or helped them in some way. The best networkers believe in the “givers gain” philosophy (what goes around comes around). The more you give to others, the more you’ll get in the future.
- People Who Have Given You Referrals
People who give you referrals for business, or direct others to you for advice, are demonstrating that they think highly of you and what you do. If they didn’t, they would refer people elsewhere. Strengthen and nurture these prospective referral sources; don’t take them for granted. Show your appreciation with personal communication and by referring prospects to them.
- Other Members of Business Referral Groups
Referral groups are set up by their members mainly to exchange business referrals. A typical weekly meeting of such a group includes time devoted exclusively to networking and referring business. Get to know your fellow members to build mutually beneficial relationships that help each other’s businesses grow.
Community Service Organizations
As you think about the people you know in the eight different groups of referral sources, you may find that many of them are from community service groups you are involved with. These types of organizations give business professionals an opportunity to give something back to their community and to make valuable contacts.
While these groups exist primarily for community service, they also provide an excellent opportunity for businesspeople to meet regularly and develop relationships.
Local service organizations are usually populated with the movers and shakers of the community. Those who are long-term, active, and contributing members of such groups usually end up befriending people who can open doors and present little-known opportunities for them.
With any business organization, particularly service clubs, it is very important to remember that making effective contacts and building deep business relationships is a journey, not a destination.
Savvy professionals who know and cultivate their most likely referral sources get the largest number of high-quality referrals, and the more referrals they get, the more revenue they generate in the long run.
I urge you to make a commitment to reach out and connect with at least one person from two or three of these eight commonly untapped referral sources to start developing and strengthening your business relationship with your potential referral partner.