Referrals are the platinum-standard for acquiring new business. This concept is as old as sales itself. There are three key principles to getting and leveraging good referrals…
- You need to be referred to the economic buyer. If the person you were referred to can’t write a check or have the authority and budget to have one cut, you’re wasting your time.
- The buyer must respect the referral source. If they run screaming from you when you mention the name, or worse yet, never return your call, you’ve got a bad referral.
- They must be in need of your help. Now, that doesn’t mean today or tomorrow. It could mean in 6 months or a year. However, they must be a business or individual that can gain value from what you provide.
In the nearly 6 years since I started my practice, I’ve mined referrals from clients, prospects, CPAs, attorneys, bankers, friends, family, acquaintances, and just about anyone else who had a pulse. That being said, one of my best referral sources (and perhaps THE best after clients), have been consultants. If you’re a consultant and you’re not actively receiving referrals from your colleagues in the consulting world, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.
Here are areas you gain leverage…
- New business. The clients referred to you by consultants have one giant obstacle eliminated – they already are used to working with consultants. How many times have you had to fight the battle of persuading a business owner that working with an outside source is an investment rather than a cost? Now, you can get right to showing your value and how to improve their condition.
- Speaking opportunities. Two weeks ago, I was at the Alan Weiss Mentor Summit and re-connected with a colleague out of San Francisco. She mentioned that last year she’d spoken in Bogota, Colombia for a conference. I was intrigued because I’m half-Colombian. She gave me the contact information for the organization and I contacted them immediately. I’m now scheduled to speak at their conference in Bogota in August in front of 350 buyers, plus get to do it in another country. This offers the potential of global expansion and more speaking possibilities. That’s opportunity!
- Marketing gravity. Another colleague from the Mentor Summit happened to get an e-mail from Help a Reporter Out (HARO) with a query ideal for what I do. He sent me an e-mail asking me if this would be a good lead to follow up on. Turns out I was in transit home from Seattle on the ferry. The deadline was quickly approaching so I contacted the reporter. I will now be quoted in Entrepreneur.com on a topic in my area of expertise. Now, I may have seen this query when I got home OR over the weekend. It may have been too late. Leveraging my relationship with a fellow consultant so he knew exactly what I do and what my target audience looks like is priceless. When thanking him for his generosity, his reply was “We have to watch out for each other’s backs.”
Garnering a steady stream of referral sources from consultants takes planning and consistent contact. Here are 5 ways you can best leverage your opportunity…
- Clear value proposition. Like my last example, your colleagues must know what you do. If you’re not clear, concise, and value-laden, they may not be able to identify those people in their community who need you.
- Consistent messaging. I had someone once tell me they thought I had a highly effective “drip system.” I’m glad they didn’t mean the plumbing at my home! What they meant was I have a regular method for contacting colleagues with my value proposition, intellectual property, and new offerings.
- Give to get. You can’t be just a taker. You must reciprocate. When relationships are a one-way street, you’ll soon find yourself driving down the wrong way. You must understand their value proposition and how they can help your clients. It’s a win-win-win because you will continue to get referrals, look like a hero to your client, and help someone else in their career.
- Create a “rap sheet.” This is basically a one-page that is meant to be given to your consulting pals so they will know a referral for you when they see one. Include your value proposition, your ideal client, your target audience, your typical client results, and testimonials.
- Take care of their clients. Treat those leads like gold. Contact them within 48 hours; provide value right from the start; and ensure they get their issue solved, or are added to your mailing list.
BONUS: Always send a note of thanks (not just an e-mail) to your colleagues. That little extra level of gratitude goes a long way.
These steps are painless and easy to implement. In addition, you will gain new friends and forge remarkable relationships. Take the time to meet, network, and share with other consultants. The results will be a bigger pipeline, more clients, and accelerated growth for you and them. And that is a win-win-win proposition!
© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved