Maximizing Your Opportunities for Referrals

In his wonderful book The Referral Engine, my good friend John Jantsch points out that nearly 80 percent of all new business brought into most companies comes directly from referrals. However, only about 23 percent of businesses have any kind of organized referral system.

Do you see a huge opportunity here?

The secret to generating referrals lies in understanding what Jantsch calls the Customer Referral Cycle, meaning the way customers refer others to your company who, in turn, generate even more referrals.

You can ensure a healthy referral cycle by moving customers and prospects along the path of Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat, and Refer your product or service. If everyone in your organization keeps this sequence in mind and focuses on it daily, your business will generate referrals like a well-oiled machine.

Let me give you an example from my business. When a new client hires me to do a workshop or deliver a speech, at the beginning of the process I say to them, “I am totally going to work my butt off to deliver the highest quality program I possibly can for your attendees. If I deliver something that significantly exceeds your expectations, I’m going to ask you to send a strong personal referral to a minimum of 10 of your colleagues suggesting that they consider hiring me for their next workshop or speech. If I absolutely earn that, will you agree to send the referrals for me?”

I have never had a client say no, especially since it is all based on me first delivering a truly superb speech or workshop.

I also have another referral technique that works extremely well. If a client or even an attendee of one of my speeches or workshops compliments me after I have finished my presentation, I immediately say, “I appreciate that a great deal. Actually the best way you can thank me would be to tell a whole bunch of people you know how much you enjoyed my program and how much value you took away from it. In 18 years of doing this for a living I have learned that 99.9 percent of all my new business comes directly from happy customers telling their friends and business colleagues. It would be great if you could take five minutes and send out a handful of e-mails to anyone you feel would enjoy the sort of presentation you just saw.”

Do you currently ask your best customers—in a professional, clear, focused and comfortable way—to send you targeted referrals? If not, why not?

Which brings me to my next point: It also helps if you make it really easy for them to send a great referral your way. For example, if you’ve got a client who is enthusiastic about referring you, you might simply type out a short note that they can use as a template. I send one to my clients and ask them to look over, customize or change it in any way that makes them comfortable and then e-mail it to anyone they feel would find value in the work I do.

Some clients don’t send any e-mails, some clients send a handful, and a few very special clients send it on to dozens and dozens of people. There is no advertising or marketing program in the world more powerful than a happy client sending several dozen e-mails to their clients and colleagues to strongly recommend your services.

Referrals are a key of business success, but you can’t just sit back and hope that your clients will refer you. You need to turn your business into a referral engine. How you do that?

  • Talk with your customers. Use social networks to engage your customers and generate referrals.
  • Get everyone in your business involved in asking for referrals.
  • Help your customers understand who is a good referral for you.
  • Make it incredibly easy for your customers to give you referrals.
  • Ask for referrals all the time.
  • And most important—do such amazingly awesome work that you truly earn tons of referrals.


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