This is the second post on sourcing referrals. In the first I explained the importance of designing a referral process and laid out the structure we used in a recent workshop to elucidate one. In this post I will summarise the most pertinent points from this exercise, and explain what our resulting ‘referral process’ looked like.
1. What is required to make a referral work?
(a) You need to have credibility with the referrer
(b) Your referrer needs an appropriate network
(c) The referrer needs to have credibility with the prospect
(d) The prospect needs to be qualified
(e) The referrer needs to be able to articulate your proposition comfortably, easily, and compellingly to the prospect
(f) The referrer needs actually to get around to speaking to the prospect
2. For what reasons might you be reluctant to ask for a referral?
(a) You feel it looks desperate
(b) You don’t wish to put the referrer in an awkward position
3. How can these above points best be addressed?
(a) Timing – ask for referrals immediately after having delivered clear value to your client (addresses 1a)
(b) Research – map out your referrer’s network to identify the best prospects and how strong you believe their connection is to your referrer (addresses 1b, 1c and 1d and also 2a because you are only asking for a referral to a company to which – due to its current situation – you believe you can deliver a valuable service)
(c) Thoughtful approach – by structuring an offering specifically for the prospect (e.g. a review document / a relevant article / a seminar invitation) it makes it easy for your referrer to pass it on, it means they don’t mess up the proposition, and it means they will get around to doing it and won’t feel awkward because they will be adding immediate value to their contact (addresses 1e, 1f and 2b)
We then tied these points up to create a systematic and repeatable referral process:
- Generate a universe of contacts you could approach as referrers
- Create a ranked shortlist (using criteria such as the strength of your relationship with them, the quality of their network, etc.)
- Map the network of each member of the shortlist to understand the prospects they could introduce you to (this in itself requires a systematic approach, for which I won’t go into detail here but should include desk-based research to look at: previous jobs, ex-colleagues and their new positions; professional networks; family, etc.)
- Pick the optimum prospect from each referrer’s network
- Structure the optimum approach for each prospect
- Ask for the referral
- Thank your referrer and provide them with an update of the outcome
It should be noted that all of this is very straight forward. The key to winning more referrals is to bring the process in line with the rest of your marketing efforts by designing (and subsequently measuring the effectiveness of) a systematic approach. The above is simply an example of such an approach.