In a previous post, Lousy at Getting Referrals? Here’s some help, I provided several tips that could increase your referrals. A personal historian colleague asked me to expand on my suggestion, Develop a large network of referral partners. She asked, “I know that we can benefit one another, but how do they know? How do I persuade them to give me their time for free? And what does it mean to follow up with my network every three months or so?”
Here then is an elaboration on my earlier post on referral partners that I hope addresses my colleague’s questions.
- This is a long term process. You’re involved in developing mutually supportive business relationships. It will take time, trust, and patience and not all your efforts will bear fruit. If you’re looking for a quick fix, this isn’t the route to go.
- Create your “ideal client” referral document. It’s helpful to compose a sketch of your perfect client and the follow-up approach you’ll use with each referred client. For example, will you contact your referral by telephone, letter, or e-mail? How will you introduce yourself? How will you describe your referral partner’s role? Will you send promotional materials or wait until you have a positive response? Will you meet with referrals in their home or in some neutral location like a coffee shop? This document will clarify who you’re looking for and it will provide your referral partners with a good overview of your referral strategy. Don’t forget to add a few testimonials to your paper.
- Identify a referral partner. Start by choosing a business that likely serves similar clients as personal historians. Make it easy for yourself by identifying a professional you already use and like. Perhaps you know a financial adviser, accountant, or chiropractor that would be willing to be a referral partner. Once you’ve established this professional as a willing partner, you can ask for names of others he or she would let you contact.
- Try the ” reverse introduction”. Over at the Duct Tape Marketing Blog, John Jantsch has a clever approach to starting a referral partnership. He calls it the Perfect Introduction in Reverse. You can watch John explain it in a short video here. Basically the idea is to start by contacting a potential partner, explaining that you have clients that could benefit from her service or product. It’s easier to start be offering something of value. For example, I’ve been in touch with a company that provides a complete package of services to assist seniors with moving. It’s still early but with time the potential for referrals is there. Listen to John Jantsch here for a full explanation of the reversed introduction.
- Build a trusting relationship. Keeping referral partners is a matter of building professional trust. You want to be certain that clients you send to your partner are going to have a positive experience. Similar concerns exist for your partner.There are several ways you can go about developing trust. For instance:
- Offer a free seminar for your partner’s clients. Invite your referral partner to do the same for you.
- Write an article for your partner’s newsletter or website and ask for your partner to write something for your clients.
- Keep in touch. It’s important to nurture and care for the professional relationship you develop with your referral partners. Here are some things you can do:
- send a card or gift for every referral you receive.
- participate in their charity events.
- make regular phone calls.
- send an article that’s relevant to their work.
In a nutshell then, getting referral partners is not about asking people to give you something for free. It’s about a mutually supportive relationship where each partner wins. And to make certain that the partnership is maintained, you have to find ways to keep in touch.
Photo by Search Engine People Blog
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