Ask any entrepreneur about referrals and most will tell you that they are the lifeblood of any business.
And the reason is simple: When you have referrals on a consistent basis, client acquisition is easy.
When you don’t …well, let’s just say that generating a steady stream of business becomes much harder.
Which is why I like this four-step approach toward getting more referrals: It’s simple and straightforward and can easily fit into your day-to-day networking activities.
In other words, these four steps assume that you met the person through a business networking event, and I’ll walk you through how to turn those contacts into potential referral partners!
1. Create a visible identity
In our book Networking Like a Pro, Dr. Ivan Misner and I talk about the idea of a visible identity, which simply says, “How can you differentiate yourself, in the mind of the other person, from everyone else they already met?”
And while that might sound hard, the answer is pretty easy: Get them talking about themselves!
In other words, how many times have you gone to an event and had people just talking about themselves, their business and all the things they can do for you?
For me, a ton.
And speaking for myself, when others do that, it makes them appear self-centered, selfish and not someone I wanted to “talk” to again. So to avoid falling into that trap ourselves, we recommend you ask good questions and let the other person lead the discussion.
Because by keeping the conversation about them, they’ll be less inclined to feel like you’re being selfish and in most cases feel like you’re a great networker! Which is obviously a great start for standing out from the crowd.
Here are some of my favorite questions:
- Where else do you normally network?
- What do you like best about what you do?
- What got you started in this direction?
2. Provide a next step for future contact
This is a big one because meeting someone at the networking event is simply the first step toward receiving potential referrals from this person.
Meaning, a next step for future contact needs to happen.
No problem. Just make sure to set that expectation at the end of the conversation. Here’s how:
Well, Jim, it was really great talking to you … sounds like you have a lot going on. As a matter of fact, what about getting some coffee or something down the road … spend some more time learning about each other’s business and how we might be able to help each other out.
I don’t know if that would be something you’d be open to putting on the calendar within the next couple of weeks?
No big, long song and dance, just straightforward and to the point.
Once they agree, all you do is send out a quick text/email within the next 48 hrs and you’re on the move toward developing a referral relationship.
3. Follow up!
Now it’s time to follow up with that person we just met.
No problem! Here’s how I do it:
Subject: Nice to Meet You — Chamber Event (Date)
My name is Jane Smith and I’m the [Coach] who met you the other day at the Chamber event. Hey listen, I just wanted to say I really enjoyed our conversation and was hoping I could learn a little bit more about what you do.
I’m thinking we can get together for a quick cup of coffee, that way if I run into someone who could use your services, I could point them in your direction.
I’m pretty booked this week, but how does next Tuesday morning sound for something over at Starbucks?
Again, great talking to you and if I can help out your business in any way, please let me know.
Now if you’ve properly executed Steps #1 and #2, this message should work 40 to 50 percent of the time. Simply copy and paste to each person you met (individually, no mass messages) and wait for the responses to roll in!
4. Engage in a solid “coffee connection” with this person
What’s a coffee connection, you ask?
Simply a one-on-one discussion that gives you the opportunity to get to know the other person better, and potentially establish a referral relationship where they pass you business and you do the same.
Without the coffee connection, you don’t deepen the relationship and potentially get referrals.
Without the networking, you don’t get the coffee connection.
It’s as simple as that.
So how do these connections work once you’re physically sitting down? Here are some general guidelines:
- The meeting usually lasts about an hour.
- The first half will be them talking and you seeing who you know who might be a good referral for them.
- The second half is the opposite.
- Throughout the meeting you want to be simultaneously listening and adding value.
- (No sales pitch …just good solid advice. Think of it almost like they hired you to be their coach in your field of expertise.)
- Consider asking questions like these:
- How do you go about getting new business?
- Who is your ideal client/customer?
- Besides networking, where else do you find clients?
- When it’s your turn to talk, be 100 percent ready to tell them what a good referral is for you.
Now it’s this last point that I want to talk about real quick, because this is where people can fall off the wagon. In order to know what a good referral is, you need to know three things:
- Your ideal client
- The problem you help them solve
- Why people have worked with you specifically to help solve that problem
So definitely make sure you spend some time figuring that out. But once you’ve got that nailed down, you will be on your way toward getting more referrals from everyone you meet!