Do you believe your best source of referrals is your customers? If so, think again . . . the reason people sometimes fall into believing customers are there best source of referrals is that they’ve been trained to believe it and have never pursued any other source of referrals. The only referrals they’ve ever received are from customers.
Don’t get me wrong–customers and clients can be a very good source of referrals and I’m not denying that. However, many businesses (especially big corporations) are out of touch with the fact that other referral sources are available that can be extraordinarily powerful. Clients, although often the most readily available sources, are not necessarily the best or steadiest sources of high-quality referrals. The best sources in the long run are likely to be the people you refer business to. When you help another businessperson build his or her business, you’re cultivating a long-term relationship with someone who’s motivated to return the favor by bringing business to you, who’s sharing your target market, and who will work systematically with you for mutual benefit.
With a well-developed referral network, you can realize more good referrals from one or two professional referral sources than from all your customers combined. Why? Because these professionals are better salespeople than your clients and they spend more time in contact with your target market. They know how to sell to your client base. They talk your talk. If you’ve done your job of educating and training them to refer business to you, they can communicate your value better to their contacts.
There’s also a built-in challenge with viewing customers as referral sources. If you’re spending part of your time with a customer trying to get referrals, you’re generating a conflict of interest. Instead of devoting all of your time and attention to the customer’s needs, you’re diverting part of that effort toward your own self-interest. Instead of devoting all your time and attention to the customer’s needs, you’re diverting part of that effort toward your own self-interest. The customer may sense that they are not getting full value–and the truth is, they may be right. You may be sending mixed messages. You may be polluting customer service time with “gimme business” time.
Yes . . . you can expect to get referrals from a happy customer, but you’d better make darn sure the customer is indeed happy. This means keeping your attention–and your motivations–focused on the customer’s needs when that is the purpose of the visit or call. However, there’s nothing wrong with asking for another appointment specifically so you and your client can discuss how you can help each other.
What’s the best referral you’ve gotten recently (think about the referral you’ve been the most excited about)? Where did that referral come from? I’d really like for you to share your answer in the comment forum below because I’d love to get a conversation going about the diverse array of avenues from which good referrals can be generated. My goal in writing this post was not at all to discount customer referrals, but rather to emphasize that they are not solely the best source of referrals–great referrals can come from many places. For that reason, I’d love to hear where your most recent standout referral came from so please share your story with us–I know more people in addition to me would really like to hear about your experience!