It's hard enough to get more prospects and new clients during a booming economy when people have money to spend. So when the global economy takes a nosedive, it's 100 times harder to get prospects to talk to us. Even with tentative signs of recovery finally on the horizon, the situation's still far from optimal.
So, how can you get more referrals and more new clients in a still-shaky economy? The answer's pretty straightforward: You have to ask.
How many of your clients have you asked for referrals? When I pose this question to salespeople, the usual answer is "not many" or "hardly any."
For example, I was working with the president of a consulting firm. I asked him how many clients he had—counting all the people he worked with, not just the number of companies. He told me 295. Then I asked him how many of those 295 individuals he had excellent relationships with.
His answer: 60.
I then asked him how many of the 60 he had asked for referrals.
Sixty of his best, most valued clients were just sitting there. These clients were an underleveraged source of referrals that could be bringing in more clients.
If you're not inviting your current clients to be part of your sales team, you're leaving money on the table—every single day. If you ask them, they'll be happy to refer you. The catch is, you have to ask.
A good salesperson probably has at least 100 people on his prime contact list. These are people who could be phoned with the expectation of returning your call. If only 20 percent referred you, you'd have 20 new prospects to satisfy. Once you satisfy them and once you actively cultivated relationships with them, they can become part of your "sales team."
Can you see where this could lead, and how much business that could generate?
In a survey of its best clients, a major brokerage firm asked this question: "Would you be willing to refer your stockbroker?"
A whopping 84 percent answered in the affirmative.
The firm asked brokers: "What percent of the time are you asking your clients for referrals?"
The answer: Only 15 percent. Their clients were absolutely willing to refer them, but the brokers were not asking.
You can easily see how a fabulous opportunity was overlooked. Think about how much money the brokers were leaving on the table. Those referrals could easily have generated millions of dollars in revenue for the firm, if only they'd been maximized.
The hard fact is most clients think of us only when they need us. It's up to you to get them thinking about you between orders. Your clients are not going to automatically refer you. You must constantly remind them that you exist, so when a referral opportunity arises, you're the one who gets it.
The clients you serve well—the ones who know you, like you, and trust you—truly want you to be successful. After all, they know what you do and they've received measurable business results from your solutions. Referring you will make them look good to their customers and business partners.
So are you now ready to get more referrals, prospects, and clients right now? Here are five tips that will help you tremendously:
1. Review your database and gather information about your current clients. Find out:
• What percent of your current clients were referred?
• How profitable are your current clients?
• Have they bought additional products from you?
• How often have you contacted them?
• How many have referred you to other clients?
2. Put a plan in place to check in with your clients and find out what they need.
3. Make a note about why they like working with you.
4. Ask for ways to improve.
5. Invite them to help you build your business through referrals and ask them to refer you.
Not to belabor the point, but your current clients are going to be your best source of referrals. They're just waiting for you to ask.
Guess what? It's time to ask.
Joanne Black is an authority on referral selling and the founder of No More Cold Calling.