Referrals Rule!

Last month, we discussed whether or not you should ask for Referrals, winning Repeat Business and seven tips for how to ‘Nail the Sale’. Now, let’s focus on Internal and External Referrals and how to say ‘Thank You’.

1. Internal Referrals

Depending on the size of the organization, there might be other departments, divisions, locations or even subsidiaries that would benefit from your products or services. You won’t know until you ask.

If Bob, your current customer, gives you the name of colleague Sarah in a ‘cool’ lead, you can certainly contact Sarah and follow up. ‘Bob gave me your name … ‘should be good enough for a few minutes of her attention. The higher Bob’s position is in the organization, the more time and professional courtesy you might get from Sarah.

‘Cool’ leads or pass-offs can be very useful, but ‘warm’ leads or three-way connections are usually better. In this case, Bob offers, or you ask him, to contact Sarah on your behalf, describe your relationship, his satisfaction with your work and connect you with her. This connection can be done in person, by phone or even with an email.

In both cases, you now have two people you need to turn into raving fans, not just one. Bob has some skin in the game, so if things don’t go well with Sarah, that could backfire and impact your future relationship with him.

2. External Referrals

Referrals to professional colleagues in other organizations are potentially even more valuable. If Bob works in a small company, the internal potential may be limited or non-existent. But, if Bob is well-connected in the local industry or community, he could refer you to lots of colleagues and become a strong extension of your marketing effort. Nice work if you can get it.

The same ‘cool’ vs ‘warm’ lead concept applies. You can always start by asking for a ‘warm’ lead and settle for a ‘cool’ one if you need to.

3. Gratitude Magnitude

A key tactic for a successful Referral Strategy is the magnitude of your gratitude. In the above example, here are seven steps to making the most of your gratitude

  1.  Start by thanking Bob for the initial business.  An email is good, a phone call better and a hand-written note the best. Why not do all three?
  2.  If Bob does offer you a referral to Sarah, thank him for his help and support.
  3.  After contacting Sarah, thank her for her time, even if nothing comes from it.
  4. If Sarah does buy something, thank Bob for the lead when you thank her for the   initial business.
  5.  If Sarah does buy something, thank Bob for the lead when you thank her for the       initial business.
  6.  Then, ask Sarah for repeat business as well as internal or external referrals.
  7.   And the beat goes on …

Sounds like a lot of time spent expressing gratitude, doesn’t it? Absolutely. But, since most people don’t bother, anything you do will clearly and positively differentiate you from the pack of ungrateful amateurs you compete against who are too lazy or too lame to say ‘Thank You’.

(This piece first appeared in COSE’s August ‘Mind Your Business’.)