'Be a Conduit': 3 Tips to Earn More Referrals
As the old saying goes: You get out what you put in. This could be about all kinds of things. If you’re spiritual, it could refer to the karmic balance of putting good energy into the world and receiving an equally positive response from the universe. Or it could mean making the most of a situation, where a good attitude and active participation could yield better results than if you had just been a passive passenger.
In business, especially from the perspective of salespeople and promotional products distributors, this idea of reciprocity relates directly to referrals. If you’re providing referrals to others, chances are you’ll get some from them. To use another metaphor: If you help your friend move, chances are they’ll offer to help you when it’s your turn.
And for your customers, if you put in the effort to meet their needs and go above and beyond, they'll likely tell their friends about it.
These referrals are vital for creating and maintaining business. It’s easy to get swept up in the competitive mindset, where assisting other companies might seem like giving business away. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The reality of the situation is that you’re building a network of trusted partners and friends. That network will support you the same way you support them.
Sure, you can go on without them. But, as another saying goes, no man is an island. So, why not get some help from your colleagues?
“Referrals are critical to continual growth in sales,” said Joe Davis, director of sales and customer service for Visstun, Las Vegas. “This is one of the great pipelines for business that goes untapped with many salespeople. Those who are very successful have learned the importance of referrals and have made it a part of their core sales process. You can still be successful without referrals. However, you will be much more successful with them.”
Here are three simple tips to get more referrals for your promo business.
1. Join the Club
So, let’s say you’re new to the promotional products industry. It’s a lot like showing up to a party and not knowing anyone there. How do you break the ice and start forming relationships that will bring about referrals? Bruce Felber, MAS, corporate brand specialist from The Image Group, Toledo, Ohio, said that the first step is getting involved in a local organization or attending networking events.
“Networking groups are the best way [to get referrals],” he said. “Join your local chamber [and] networking groups, and be involved in organizations or charities. For our industry, I would focus on those groups that are B2B rather than B2C.”
Right now, there might not be many (or any) opportunities for in-person networking, but there are plenty of virtual events specific to the promo industry. Those can be an effective alternative until the real deal returns.
2. Just Ask!
This seems like comically simplistic advice, but once you’ve built some relationships and have a reputation within the industry, the best way to get a referral itself is to just ask for it. People can’t read your mind, after all. The best time to do it, according to Davis, is after you’ve finished a particularly successful project. Think about how YouTube influencers finish videos with something like, “Hey, if you liked this video, consider liking and subscribing, and don’t forget to share it with friends!” No, we’re not saying you need to start a YouTube channel, but it’s smart to wrap up a project by saying, “Hey, if you liked this project, would you consider recommending us to someone else when the opportunity arises?”
“When someone is delighted with the work you have just done for them, they are excited to recommend you to others,” Davis said. “Having that person introduce you is the ideal way to be referred. When that’s not the case, being able to mention that person’s name is oft times enough to get the conversation going.”
Davis added that another referral opportunity could actually present itself at a time that might feel like a failure to the untrained sales eye.
“Another great time to ask for a referral is when you have been working on a project with a good customer, but they end up going in a different direction or choosing a different product or service,” he said. “They are mindful of the work that you’ve put in trying to help them with the project and want to help you. If you’ve done a good job presenting to them and working with them in the past on other projects, they will want to help you find additional business and will be happy to refer you to colleagues.”
3. Be the Partner You’d Want
Your quality and professionalism alone could get you a few referrals, but you’re much more likely to land them after you’ve helped someone else out, too. These friendships are two-way streets. And part of that means you have to be a good partner to someone else. What you can do to help someone else and, in turn, earn a few referrals down the road includes things like communication, consistency and doing what you say you’ll do. It’s not a big secret, really. Think about what you expect from others, and do that.
“[We look for] someone who can understand what you bring to the table and can refer you with confidence,” Felber said. “It helps if you can bring business to your partner as well. Be a conduit.”
Once you’ve acted as that conduit, you’ve created a good name for yourself with that business. And then when it comes time for the all-important ask for a referral, there’s no need to explain who you are, what you do, or why you are worthy of a referral.
“Warm referrals are better than cold,” Felber added. “A third-party referral will yield more respect and trust, as opposed to straight cold calling or contacting.”
“The relationship that we have with our customers and our consistently good performance enables customers to be happy to refer us,” Davis said. “We are fortunate to have partners who have had good experiences with us and consistently refer distributors to us. The business that we get from referrals is substantial.”