In my last blog, I began the discussion of the power of referrals. In this issue, I will go deeper into the issue and help you evaluate and leverage your network and improve your own referral strategy.
The following data reveals the power of referrals in opening doors to decision makers and creating new business opportunities.
Top 5 Methods Buyers are “Very / Somewhat Likely” to Use to Initially Identify and Learn More about Professional Service Providers.

Top Tier: Referrals and Awareness
No surprise: The most common ways buyers initially identify and learn about service providers include referrals from colleagues or other service providers (both at least a “somewhat likely” method for at least 75% of respondents) and personal recognition or awareness of the provider, or the provider’s “brand.”
Tier 2: Face-to-Face
Overall, 62-66% of buyers were at least “somewhat likely” to identify and learn about service providers via in person seminars and presentations at conferences or events, both of which offer the chance for buyers to evaluate providers face-to- face and interact with them.
Source: How Clients Buy: 2009 Benchmark Report
Statistics reveal that referral marketing is four times more effective than cold calling, yet many companies do not have a strategy promoting or encouraging referral marketing. When you reach out to a prospective client based on an introduction from someone you both know, your call becomes “warm”. Think about this: When you are ready to buy a service or product, do you prefer to start a search online or receive a referral from a friend or someone you trust? You prefer the referral because you prefer not to buy “cold”. Here are some important points to learn to be effective at referral marketing:

  • Learn to network. One of the keys to building your business from referrals is forming relationships for mutual support. Your network should include your clients, suppliers and those individuals with a broad base of contacts that can not only provide referrals but share insights and offer advice on how to access their network. Also consider people who work for companies that you’d like to do business with, associations and community service groups, sports teams and anyone who represents services or products that can benefit people you know.
  • Learn to develop relationships. Enter relationships with an attitude of service and with the mindset that “the relationship is everything”. If you help others without asking for something in return, they often respond in similar manner. Most people live by The Law of Reciprocity. That means they look for ways to repay a good deed not because they want something more in return but because of their intrinsic motivation to contribute to society and make things better for others.
  • Do quality work. Understand what your clients require and strive to exceed their expectations. Find ways to help them be more effective or efficient, do a better job or just make life easier for them in general.
  • Take a personal interest in people. Learn about your client’s interests, challenges, opportunities and ask what projects or tasks they are working on. Get to know their company and business so you can offer advice or services that position you as a resource and strategic partner.
  • Be competent. Maintain and enhance your technical expertise and skills. Keep abreast of new developments that will impact your clients and enable you to serve them better. Make it easy for them to give you additional work or refer you to others because of your reputation for doing quality work.
  • Get client feedback. Research reveals that dissatisfied and unhappy clients don’t complain they just take their business elsewhere. If you don’t intentionally get feedback and input, you will not know whether they are happy with your service or not. If you don’t know you can’t improve – so be sure to ask!
  • Learn to get referrals. The best time to ask for referrals and build your network is when your client has expressed satisfaction or appreciation for your service or work. The quality of the referral can vary from a “low” to “high”. You can upgrade or strengthen the referral by having the individual referring you call the person they are introducing you to. Better yet, have your contact introduce you directly via a face-to-face meeting. Ask them to arrange a luncheon meeting and you pick up the tab.
  • Master the basics. Once you understand the fundamentals of networking and with some practice, you too can become effective at referral marketing.

Listen to Ralph’s podcast on The Importance of Networking
Successful networking begins with a genuine desire to help others. Like the stereotypical salesman with questionable motives, people quickly pick up on anyone with self-serving interests. Networking is most effective when you approach it with an honest willingness to help others. Ask yourself how you can provide assistance, or offer more value to a potential or existing client. At some point everyone has a problem or an issue requiring help. Developing business means finding a fit between your prospect’s needs and your services and products. However; helping others may not necessarily lead to immediate business. In my audio file, I spoke about the “law of reciprocity.” The help you provide for one person may come back to you in another unexpected but equally rewarding way.

” The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person’s needs ahead of their own.”

– Bob Burg

As I stated in part one of this blog entry on networking – you have a reputation whether you are aware of it or not. Your reputation can be enhanced and your brand made stronger through effective networking. Commit to applying some of the strategies outlined to expand your network and position yourself as a high-value resource.