Focused on making the most of the last few weeks of the federal fiscal year? Or just want to bring some new business through the door, and not spend a lot of money doing it? Referral marketing is one of your least expensive – and most effective – forms of business development. That’s what I love about it.
My friend, venture capitalist John Sanders, gives entrepreneurs this tip: “If you’re looking for advice, ask for money. If you’re looking for money, ask for advice.” Want new business? In effect, you’re looking for money. Here’s how to ask for the advice to open that door.
Start by making a list of your sweet spot customers. Who are they? The ones who pay you on time. They come back for more. They send their friends. They keep your magnet on their filing cabinet.
So now you’re going to plan to talk to them. What will you say? If you’re not in the regular habit of asking for referrals, it can feel awkward. It can feel like begging. So I’m going to give you an easy way to start.
Here’s the first phrase to write down and rehearse:
“My business is growing and I’m looking for new clients.” Say it to yourself.
“My business is growing and I’m looking for new clients.”
Who wouldn’t want to talk to you about that? What a positive thing that is! Say it out loud a couple of times so it feels more comfortable.
Now the next phrase: “Who do you know who…?”
“Who do you know who would like to have the superlative experience that you’ve had in working with us?”
“Who do you know that I should be talking to in your organization?”
“Given the great results we’ve had, which other agencies/offices/programs do you think I should be calling on?”
“Who else do you know that could really use what we do?”
“Who do you know who might have a problem that looks a lot like where you were when we started working together?”
You’re not begging. You’re not even asking them for an introduction. You’re just asking for advice.
See how easy that is?
Now, if the people you’re talking to are really your sweet spot customers, theywantto help you. They want you to succeed; they want your business to grow. So when you ask this question, they will brighten up right away. These are the people who say, “Oh, I know who you should talk to! Let me introduce you!”
If they don’t leap up and offer to make introductions on the spot, that’s also perfectly normal. You can still ask, “May I call them and say you sent me?” or “May I say we worked together and mention your name?” That gives your client another opening to offer to make the introduction. But if they’re just willing to be a reference, all you’re asking them to do is help you turn a cold call into a warm call.
Try it. Let me know how it works!