Your networks provide you with your most powerful sales source: inbound referrals. How effectively are you attracting referrals for your business?
About one half of my own business comes from inbound referrals and a recent survey by Marketing Research firm USM, identified that in B2B marketing, an incredible 91 per cent of B2B purchasers use Word of Mouth (WOM) Marketing to make a purchasing decision.
And it was Mark Zuckerberg who said:
“People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted friend referral influences people more then the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.”
Every client you have and every person you meet has the potential to connect you with dozens of leads. But your contacts won’t send referrals your way unless you deserve them. You earn referrals by building positive relationships with everyone you meet.
When someone has a problem, one of the first things they will do is ask their networks for advice on who can help them. If their networks positively endorse you as the right person for the job, the potential client is more likely to want to work with you. They feel reassured. People are much more comfortable working with someone they know, or with someone their friends know, than a person they know nothing about.
Some of the key activities to best leverage referral networks are:
Return the favour
Be courteous. Always thank someone who has given you a referral. If you fail to acknowledge their generosity, they’ll be less inclined to refer you to others in the future.
Whenever you can, return the favour. In business, there is a lot of truth in the adage, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” By giving referrals generously yourself, others will be more motivated to share referrals with you. You will be top of mind when they come across your ideal client.
Give and you shall receive! Gift giving is a wonderful way to establish respectful, positive relationships with people in your networks. Which, of course, leads to more referrals and greater positioning.
But gift giving must be thoughtful. According to Deb Brown, American expert in gift giving and founder of Touch Your Client’s Heart, a gift must:
• Be meaningful. Avoid last-minute, generic gifts from large shopping centres. Instead, seek smaller, more personal shops and boutiques that offer unique gifts.
• Be thoughtful. Consider the person you’re buying for. How have they helped you? Keep this in mind as you search for a present that will help you return the favour.
• Be memorable. Give a gift that will be cherished for years to come. Flowers and chocolate have a short shelf life! Buy something special, such as a monogrammed picnic blanket or a book on a subject they’re passionate about.
• Be personable. Choose something that speaks to the person’s unique qualities. If you don’t know their likes and dislikes, find out. Not everyone drinks wine or eats truffles. What would they appreciate?
Choosing the right gift for clients and important contacts can be a challenge. But works wonders for building relationships. Deb Brown, a US expert in gift giving and whom I am a big fan of says that the best gifts for this purpose are consumable in some way. You want your referral partner to enjoy the gift, use it up, and then be happy to receive it again when they give another referral.
Gift giving says a lot about you. Make sure your gift giving is considered and touches the hearts of your important contacts and clients.
Jane Anderson is a LinkedIn expert and has helped over 15,000 people with their lead generation and LinkedIn strategy. She has been featured on Sky Business, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and has been identified by LinkedIn as one of the top influencers in Australia and New Zealand. She is also the author of CONNECT: How to Leverage your LinkedIn profile for business growth and Lead Generation in less than 7 minutes per day.