It’s simply not enough to say “I want referrals”; great, so do millions of other small business professionals. As with most things, successful lead generation requires a little bit of planning and tact.
Below I’ve outlined a simple strategy using my own fictitious network.
For this example I’m a marketing consultant (Because I am). I exchange referrals with many small business owners but here is just a small sample of some key players I’d like to add to my network this week.
Connection: Harold works in the same office building as me. We’ve known each other for years but haven’t formalized a referral relationship… it’s long overdue.
Challenge: Harold is an older professional, very pragmatic and set in his ways. He’s a snail mail kind of guy and never really viewed his professional relationships as a source of new business. He spends a lot of money on outbound marketing and is a bit frustrated with his ROI as of late. Never the less, he’s a talented attorney and the sheer quality of his work alone makes him a candidate for my referral network.
Strategy: Between our brief conversations in the lobby over the years and the fact that an entrepreneur friend of mine was pleased with his work; I’m comfortable with sending Harold a few qualified leads and I know that he works with quite a few small business that could use my services too. I set a date to do lunch and follow through. At lunch, I explain to Harold that I am eager to send him new clients if he’d keep me in mind when he comes across clients who may need my marketing services. I tell him to expect a formal email invitation to join my referral network. It doesn’t end there; after lunch I immediately send Harold an invite and proactively seek to secure him a referral as soon as possible. Setting the rhythm early on will keep expectations high and revenue flowing.
Industry: Graphic Design
Connection: A past client of mine had a website done. During one of our appointments they shared their website and I was really impressed; she is talented.
Challenge: While talented, Denise is young and I don’t want her to confuse referral networking with loose social networking. If I am going to be sending her qualified sales leads I don’t just want a smiley face on my Facebook profile in return.
Strategy: Denise designs websites for businesses obviously looking to increase their presence. I help market those websites. This could become a very profitable relationship and one that’d be foolish to overlook. I call up Denise and explain our connection. I probe her to figure out what she already knows about referral networking and of course I fill in the gaps. I ask to see some more samples of her work to determine if the quality of her services are on par. I follow up with Denise and explain my intentions and why we should be taking advantage of our unique situation. I make my expectations very clear. If she’s up to it, I invite her to join my referral network and hopefully I can send her a lead within the following few days. I want to set a good example so I make an extra effort to not only send her quality leads but to take good care of any client she sends my way. With a little bit of diligence, this could easily blossom into a very profitable long term relationship for both of us.
Connection: Jim is a friend of a friend. Jim is also a slick talking networker, about as good of a salesman as he is an accountant.
Challenge: Jim talks the talk and while many people can testify to the quality of his work, I don’t want to get lost in the shuffle. I’ve got an accountant named Dave who also does good work and I want to let Jim know that the leads I send him are very valuable and I expect the relationship to be a two-way street.
Strategy: Because of his reputation for top-notch services and his powerful connections, Jim could be a very critical player to have in my referral network. I’ll want to have a one on one conversation with Jim and tell him that I am serious about exchanging referrals. I will also want to remind Jim that I will be tracking our referral relationship through Referral Key and phrase it in such a way that I want to ensure I send him an equitable amount new business. It will be very important that I utilize referral tracking reports to keep this relationship balanced and profitable for both Jim and I.