In this article, Heather Townsend, The Author of ‘The Financial Times Guide To Business Networking’, shares her much sort after tips on how to generate referrals from your networking activities.
Referrals. Why else do we spend far too much time having coffees with business contacts? Most mumpreneurs I speak to want to find the magic silver bullet for their business – i.e. how to create a consistent stream of high quality referrals.
So what are switched on mumpreneurs actually doing to create the ideal conditions for continual referral generation?
1. Specific about what they are looking for
Do you actually know what the ideal referral for your business is? If you don’t know what you are looking for, how on earth do you expect other people to be able to provide you with the right type of referrals? When I talk about being specific, the more specific the better. If you just want to meet ‘business owners who need my services’, it makes it much harder for people to know who or what you are looking for. ‘
2. Recruit an army of advocates
The biggest mistake which most mumpreneurs make when networking is to go out prospecting for clients. People don’t go networking to be sold to – and if you go networking with the main aim of finding new clients, I bet you will come away with a set of business cards and not many people who will take your phone call. Your aim when networking is to recruit a massive unpaid sales force for your business. This sales force is going to be your eyes and ears on the ground.
3. Educate their advocates
Before your advocates can routinely start passing you high quality referrals, they need to know how to spot a potential referral for you. This means that they need to know the services you provide, what problems you solve for what type of people – and the typical results you tend to achieve. They also need to know what the rational and emotional barriers are – and how to overcome these barriers – for people wanting to use your business’s services and products. Take your time in one to one conversations with key members of your network, to do this education process.
4. Provide referrals for others
Generating referrals is heavily reliant on the social capital you create with others. Social capital is very similar to financial capital – in so far as you can create it, store it and lose it. To accumulate social capital you need to be prepared to regularly help out people within your network.
5. Routinely ask for referrals
It’s a very simple way of generating referrals – but are you actually asking for them? Yes, are you regularly asking members of your network and existing clients for ‘who do you know who needs our services?’
6. Provide excellent client service to your existing clients
Your current clients are often the best advocates for your services – but this is reliant on you consistently delivering on the promises and expectations. Before you actively start using your current client list to ask for referrals, make sure you can cope with your current workload.
What would your number 7 tip be?
Heather Townsend is the Author of ‘The Financial Times Guide To Business Networking’ and specialises in helping ambitious professional practices grow. Heather regularly blogs at partnership potential and joined up networking.