02 Aug, 2012
4 Rules To Ensure That Networking Works For You – Andy Bounds
Business referrals are great. They comfort buyers that they’re making the right choices. They help sellers to win business. And, when both the seller and the buyer benefit, it reflects well of on the referee too.
Which begs the question… since referrals are so important, why don’t more companies have a disciplined recommendations strategy?
They have policies, plans and targets for other sales and marketing approaches – to increase PR coverage, measure advertising revenue, monitor sales targets and the like – but there is little focus on beefing up the approach that’s often most likely to trigger new sales.
Yet your target market craves recommendations whether they choose you or your competitors. Are you giving yourself the best chance that they recommend you?
1. Does your company have a clear, and clearly communicated, strategy for triggering referrals?
2. Do you/your colleagues have targets for numbers of referrals to ask for?
3. Are you/your colleagues regularly asked about the number of referrals you have triggered; and/ or given guidance how to get more?
4.Do you have a ‘referral script’ that shows the value to the referrer of recommending you?
(Note: “Please could you refer me?” isn’t enough!)
Since referrals are so important, here are four simple rules to help trigger more of them…
Rule 1: Know which customer-types you want referring into
If I said to you “Please recommend me a DVD”, you would probably take a while to answer, and then either:
- Recommend your favourite film (which I might, or might not, like); or
- Say you can’t think of one
If I gave you more guidance – “It’s for my 11-year-old son. He’d love to own Spiderman on DVD” – your recommendation would be much quicker (and better)!
It’s easier for someone to recommend you if they know exactly who you want. In other words, don’t ask for referrals by saying “Recommend me to ANY company”. Instead, be clear who you want to work with (a simple way to identify this: read down your customer list, look at all the companies who pay you the most money… you want more people like that!)
Rule 2: Know what you have to offer these target companies
Imagine that you follow rule 1 perfectly. You tell me that you want to speak to the managing partner of a top 20 law firm, headquartered in London…
I might know someone like that… But, when I call them to say, “I know someone who wants to speak to you”, they’ll ask me, “why?”
Therefore, before making the call, I need to know the benefit to them of speaking to you. After all, unless I have a persuasive answer, it will sound like I am trying to help you not them – which may jeopardise my own business relationship… and chances of a referral.
(Also, ringing with no benefits to them seems worryingly similar to, “my mate fancies you”. It didn’t work at school, and it’s unlikely to work now.)
Rule 3: Write your script
The best referral scripts have two, sometimes three, elements:
1. Make your value to your existing customer apparent.
2. Ask for the referral directly, saying “who do you know who…?” (The world’s largest referral organisation, BNI, has found this phrase to be the best one to trigger referrals opportunities).
3. Clarify who you want to be referred to and why they’ll benefit from your services (ie from rules 1 and 2 above).
So, if you were speaking to an existing customer, you might say…
1. Are you happy with the cost savings that we delivered for you? [They say, “Yes”.]
2. Who do you know who would also like to reduce their costs? [if they say, “My friend John”, you reply with, “Great, would you mind asking John if he would like me to give him a buzz?”] if they are “not sure”, prompt them with…
3. “Well, we have successfully delivered similar work with many law firms. I would love the opportunity to the office managing partner of a London based top 20 law firm. Who do you know in this sector?”
Rule 4: Ask!
With referrals if you don’t ask, you rarely get.
It’s not that you don’t ‘deserve’ the referral… it is just that your contacts and customers are not looking at you thinking “Hmmm, who can I refer them to?” So, you have to put in their mind.
Making this stick
It all sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But, in my experience, it rarely happens (a) well and/or (b) constantly.
If you want to ensure it is you – not the competition- who gets recommended, you will have to do ‘more than nothing’. So, get networking with your key accounts.
After all, it’s called a net-WORK, not net-sit-and-hope-something-happens.