Highly recommended: how to get more referral business

1st Feb 2015

It’s easy to find a great restaurant these days. You can rely on referral and review websites to see what’s tried and tested. It’s a win-win. Restaurants love to receive great reviews and potential customers enjoy the security of choice without risk. A similar strategy can help your business, too.

Most businesses want more sales. They want to grow and increase the top line to drive through bigger profits. The focus tends to be on how to win new clients and usual channels are explored. But one of the easiest, and often over-looked ways of increasing sales is to get them from your existing clients. There are six ways to turbo-charge your sales, by focussing on your existing client base.

1. Give the best

No-one will recommend you unless your products and services are genuinely great. Your product has to represent great value and, for the same price as competitors, it has to do some or most things better.

When customers feel that what they have bought is the very best they could afford and the best choice for them, you have a solid base on which to obtain referral business from them. Without this, though, it will be an uphill battle.

2. Do a fair deal

Think about the times that you have been a customer. Have you ever felt ‘screwed’ by a sales person? You may have really wanted a product or service, so you couldn’t quite walk away. But you’ve been left with a bad taste in your mouth and you’d certainly never recommend that company again.

Conversely, have you ever walked away after a purchase with a spring in your step? You may have felt a little nervous about what to buy. However, those nice salespeople calmly, professionally and generously gave you their time to understand what you really wanted and needed. Perhaps they ran through some other considerations that you hadn’t thought of? They spoke openly about the products and services that they offered and how they would satisfy your requirements.

Frankly, it didn’t matter whether this was the very best product or the very cheapest. You felt confident in the company and its people. You believed they were selling quality and would support you in times of need.

If you could engender this positive feeling in your clients, it would go a long way towards their referring you to others.

3. Deal with problems well

In life, things very rarely go smoothly all of the time. People understand that sometimes products break or that there can be genuine mis-understandings when delivering a service. There is a temptation to believe, at this stage, that all is lost and you’ll never get a referral from this customer.

However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Again, reflect on your own experience. If you’ve ever had a problem with an item you bought, did you take it back to the store? How did you feel when the shop assistant apologised that it didn’t meet the standard you should expect and an immediate offer of a replacement or full refund was made?

In the words of Donald Porter, V.P. of British Airways, “customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong”.

4. Stay close

You may feel that once you’ve made the sale, the job is done. However, if you want to drive referrals, you’ll need to put in more effort. Make a point of visiting your new customers once a quarter to understand how their business is going. By staying close to your existing clients, you will achieve a number of positive outcomes:

• customers will believe that you genuinely care for them and that they are getting great service from you
• you will be at the forefront of their minds should an opportunity for further sales arise
• you will spot opportunities for more sales or new products that
your company should develop.

5. Give freebies

Look for opportunities to give your clients something that they really want and is low-cost to you and your company. This will keep you and your products at the forefront of your clients’ minds.

6. Ask for referrals

Last, but not least, ask for referrals. Hopefully, you’ll have done all of the above. You’ll probably have received unsolicited referrals. But some people just need a gentle nudge. Because you’ve given your clients a great service and got to know them well, asking directly for a referral might just do the trick.

You can’t put a price on a great referral. No amount of marketing by you will come even close. It’s a tactic that’s essential in today’s business, and is recognised more and more frequently. In the words of Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, “if you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful”. Don’t underestimate it for your business, either. A great recommendation is worth its weigh in gold!

Heather Foley is a consultant at www.etsplc.com, an HR technology and consultancy company.


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