I speak with Key account managers every week who do a great job building relationships but struggle to get referrals from their clients. After a number of conversations it’s clear that the mindset for most is.
“Well we’ve done business together and you must know other people so I’ll just ask”
That is a sure way to get fewer referrals and in some cases piss people off if not done right.
I was fortunate enough to invest some time in this area and work with a foremost expert in Referrals and Networking. Founder of the Networking Coaching Academy - Rob Brown. With his input and my own experienced mixed in I want to share ideas on how you can get more and better referrals from your customer conversations today.
First thing to note is Effective referrals are
- Follows a process
Before you begin you need to:
Know your ideal referral
What problem does your company, service, product solve best and is this the one you currently solve for your existing customer? If you don’t know this you can’t be specific with the ask and it’s unlikely you’ll get the qualified prospect referral you’re looking for. Example of an ideal prospect might be ‘they work as a marketing director, responsible for ensuring all their companies digital content goes out seamlessly and targeted across their social platforms. They are looking for ways to do this better and more easily’ note: For different contacts in your business you may want to look for different people.
Focus on the relationship
Once you know the ideal person you’re looking for you need to look for those relationships you have where you have the strongest connection. Why. Your contact is more likely to go out of their way to help. You also might want to be proactive and see if they’re already connected to potential prospects on LinkedIn so you have a reference point to begin with. Key thing here is 'mind-set' as you go through this process. You’re not going around trying to fill your pipeline but looking for more people you can legitimately help but also help your contact in the process.
Set up call/meeting to 'make the ask'
Once you know your ideal customer and the contact you want to ask. You need to start to position the next step. How do you ask and set clear expectations for what you’re looking for?
- Start with identifying the value your contact has received from you that is known and agreed by them.
- Have a clear reference point that allows them to think about other people who may have common or similar needs to what you solve
- Focus on the relationship and let them know this is about helping and not finding more people to sell to
- Make the first call over the phone if possible but send a transparent and honest email stating you’d like to discuss ways to add value to them but also get to know who else you might be able to help in his/her network.
Example call: “Hi Sue, glad we could connect over the phone. I was looking at the great results you and the business have seen from our work together in growing your existing customer sales. Based on the email I shared with you I wondered if you know anyone within your close circles or position, with similar challenges and looking for the same results we've had that you believe would benefit from a conversation with me?”
Once you've asked sit back and let them think, sometimes they might need a day. Set a time to follow up ideally within 48 hours otherwise momentum and thought is lost. If needed based on your research mention people you may have noticed in her network on LinkedIn. This way you can ask for a personal introduction where they may know that person well.
Set follow up to engage with potential prospect
Now it’s time to make those connections. Once you identify a person to contact make this collaborative with your contact.
Example: ”What do you believe would be the best way to get in touch with Simon? I’d like to personalise this for him. Would you be ok sharing a personalised email or call of the work we’re doing with you right now? I did have a couple thoughts but wanted to get your suggestions?
Once you’ve agreed on the initial introduction the best way for that meet to happen would of course be face to face. If that isn’t possible make use of the most appropriate platform available. Whether that is video conference or something else. Make the meeting time specific so you respect their time, do your research, bring something of value to the table and if possible have your contact on that first meet as well to share their own experience with them. Of course make sure you follow up
Whoa. Now I realise this might feel like a lot. This does get easier. Once you know your ideal client, identify those relationships and connections you want to have, you’re half way there to having more fruitful conversations and more profitable relationships.
Great referrals take work but they yield the biggest reward.
All the best
Jermaine Edwards - Founder of Key Account Hack System - Helping you retain your Key Accounts and grow sales from your high value customers