Three tips for getting more referrals

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Life is nearly always tougher when it comes to landing new clients. Trying to do more business with or through existing ones makes much more sense, potentially, because taking risks with new suppliers is still tricky for a fair number of buyers. So why are so many professionals so meek when it comes to asking for referrals?

Well, some people just don’t ‘get it’. What they don’t get is that they can and indeed should be asking their contacts for introductions to others who they can help. Others associate ‘it’ with the conduct of networking and other outgoing business development pursuits – from which they habitually run a mile. Both attitudes are business-limiting. So here are three tips to help make the most of your referral opportunities.

Recognise the potential. “Who could I possibly ask?” are the first words on some lips, as if the universe of potential referrers was but a small table of reluctant speed-daters. Just tot up who you know!  When you analyse it, the potential number of referrers for most professionals is often extremely large consisting of:

  • existing clients – both specialist (e.g. members of the legal team, Finance Directors) and in other disciplines (Sales, Marketing, HR etc.)
  • similar contacts who we have worked for (but may not be currently)
  • a bewildering array of third parties (e.g. intermediaries, other professional providers, relevant people in associations and other industry/sector entities).

Of course, not all of them are going to be ‘live’ referrers so..

…Select the best.   Prioritisation of referrers is a matter of applied common sense. So here’s an applied common sense quiz. In our selection:

  • Should we focus on a) new clients/contacts or b) those with whom we have an established track record?
  • Do we give priority to a) clients who are happy with us and/or the service we provide or b) those who have a gripe or for whom the last transaction did not go so well?
  • Finally, should we direct our efforts to a) those who are well connected both within and without their organisations or b) the work equivalents of Billy or Bertha No Mates?

When to ask.  When and in what circumstances to pop the dreaded question? Make it easy by doing it:

  • At the end of a meeting, the business having been successfully concluded.
  • Over lunch or coffee making best use of informality.
  • At a post-transaction or relationship review meeting using, as a platform, the wider discussion about the client’s current/planned business activities.

Of course, how the question is popped is another matter….

James Newberry runs People Scope, a consultancy, interim, training and coaching firm working with lawyers, accountants and other specialists to help them operate successfully outside of their comfort zones. http://www.peoplescope.com.

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Three tips for keeping in touch

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Thanks to social media, everybody is “in touch” these days….aren’t they? Well, sort of.

Certainly there is now a burgeoning mass of communication – but it is conducted largely in one-way, remote broadcast mode. It is no substitute for meaningful dialogue and actual contact: this remains the best way to keep front-of-mind with clients and prospects so that business has a real chance to flow. So what to do – once you’ve “done” lunch or entertainment? Here are three ideas to help you keep properly engaged.

Get out there!  It is difficult enough to uproot many professionals from their offices to visit clients. But, if this can be done, why not go a step further and get them to spend this time on the shop floor, experiencing what it is really like to be at the sharp end of the business?  It is a point of policy for many service-orientated businesses that senior managers do this on a regular basis.  Asking to go along for the day with them could prove an especially powerful relationship and knowledge-building pursuit.

Come and tell us like it is  “We’re all so focused on assignments and delivering to deadlines that we rarely give ourselves the chance to look wider”.  For professionals this can mean understanding what it is like to be in the client’s shoes.  One walk for this particular talk is to get good clients to come and speak with the team about what it is like to be on the receiving end of your things.  The results can be very productive: like the startling revelation that a one page board report is all that is required, rather than the 100 page ‘whopper’ which regularly hits their desk!

Matchmaking for bench marking  This is about applying a bit of lateral thinking: looking beyond the narrowness of transactions at the key professional/technical or business processes that underpin the operations of client organisations.  Clever professionals are always on the look-out for clients in these important areas who display excellence and those who are experiencing issues or problems.  Why?  Because if they are non-competing, one party can learn from the other – and as the matchmaker for this bench marking exercise you are positioned strongly as a trusted professional for both parties.

James Newberry runs People Scope, a consultancy, interim, training and coaching firm working with lawyers, accountants and other specialists to help them operate successfully outside of their comfort zones. http://www.peoplescope.com.