Referrals are the best way for you to generate and maintain success for your business. Not a particularly controversial statement, I know, but it bears repeating given the amount of misinformation out there. Everyone seems to have the advice to offer on how to bring in referrals, but no one has the results to show for their supposed success. There’s intuitive, counterintuitive, expensive, low-cost, difficult, and easy-to-implement advice; name an adjective and someone has that sort of advice to offer. On behalf of BNI, here are five pieces of the right advice to drive referrals for you and your business.
1. Exceed client expectations in creative, low-cost ways
If you’re looking to ‘wow’ your clients, you need to think outside of the box. Providing an excellent core service sets you up for success, but it’s the little things, the thoughtful things, that stick out. Call clients ahead for a Starbucks order before a meeting, pay attention to likes and dislikes and pick up small, non-generic gifts based on their interests - always be thinking of little ways to make them feel special every step of the way.
2. Focus on the experience, not the presentation
Of course, optics will always be important; you want to do the best possible job of showcasing your product or service to your clients. Here’s a radical idea, though, if you want them to leave with the impression that you provided them with an excellent service, why not just give it to them? The aesthetics, the presentation, will always be important, but you’ll always do better by focusing on actually delivering something good and not trying to make what you delivered look good.
3. Avoid transactional experiences
A thoughtful, well-timed gift is one of the best tools in your arsenal for creating a positive connection with and personal experience for your clients. Too many professionals, though, make the mistake of picking out a thoughtful gift and sending it right after a deal or a favour as a ‘thank you.’ It puts a price on things. It makes the experience feel cold and transactional - ‘you brought me $10,000 worth of business, so here’s a $50 bottle of wine. That’s what your help was worth to me.’ Don’t get me wrong, thank your clients, partners, and friends when they do you favours, thank them personally, thank them well, and thank them often, but don’t thank them with gifts. When you give gifts, spread them out and don’t give them for particular reasons; give them because you care about the relationships you build with the people who are important for your professional life, building a more meaningful, deeper connection over time.
4. Beat, don’t meet expectations
There are a lot of tools at your disposal, but when it comes to creating a positive experience for your clients, nothing is as powerful as beating their expectations. When you have a chance to set deadlines or project a deliverable, always underestimate. If you think you will have a job done in 6 weeks, say you’ll have it done in 7. It will give you a chance to account for any unexpected delays or problems you may encounter, and your client will be pleasantly surprised when you finish your job ahead of schedule or provide a better service than they expect.
5. Give referrals to get referrals
It is one of the simpler concepts in the article - just build your network. Pay attention and listen for chances to refer one professional or business in your life to another. If you can bring in notable business for someone, they won’t soon forget it, and they’ll keep you in mind the next time they have an opportunity to help you out. Build your network and aid those who are already a part of it by giving referrals liberally and productively and watch them roll back in as a result.
It may sound like it sometimes, but generating referrals should not be rocket science. Make these small changes and focus on providing a thoughtful, personal experience and watch the referrals role in.