When I was selling Encyclopedia Britannica door-to-door many years ago, it was an obligatory part of the job to ask for referrals. And I hated it. It made me nervous and shaky just to think of it. Is this how you feel too?
I hated to ask for fear I was imposing on my prospects, or even destroying my chances of a sale, so I left it almost until I was out the door, like an afterthought. As I didn’t make many sales, I didn’t seem to get many referrals either, which made matters worse. And because I didn’t get many sales I feared that I may lose what sales I did get if I asked for referrals.
And yet referrals can be the very best prospective customers you can get, and the very cheapest way of getting them. Every business, every salesperson, needs a constant source of qualified referrals.
Do you hate asking for referrals? Does it make you uncomfortable just thinking about asking for referrals? Would you rather pay a visit to the dentist for a tooth treatment than ask for a referral? Then listen up because you are now going to learn how asking for referrals can be completely painless. In fact we are going to start with six proven methods for getting referrals, without even asking for them. Over my years in marketing I have discovered, even invented, a lot of ways to get a constant stream of qualified referrals without having to go through the painful process of asking directly for referrals.
“OK!” you ask, “how can you get referrals if you don’t ask for them?” It’s simple! Just use, or develop, a referral system (or systems) that do it for you.
Here are some innovative systems for getting referrals without asking.
Complementary Businesses Referral System For almost every business, including yours, there are a number of professionals, people or businesses which sell or provide products or service that complement, but do not compete with yours. For example, if you own a ladies’ dress boutique, your list will likely comprise shoe stores, beauty salons, weight loss centers, fitness clubs, perhaps even jewelry stores.
Using the phone book or Yellow Pages, make a list of these people and businesses Now create a referral program that pays referral fees for people that are sent to you by your referral partners.
As an alternative, offer to joint venture by referring one of your customers to them for each one of theirs they refer to you.
You can make this system more effective, you can personalize or customize the coupons, tickets, or cards that the referred customers brings with them to your business. This makes it look more professional and also simplifies the process of tracking and paying each referral source.
Favorite Charities Referral System Do you have favorite charity that you donate to? Are there active charities, especially children’s or animal charities in your neighbourhood? I suggest these two because child and animal protection organizations are usually popular in most communities, yet they are always seeking extra funds.
Contact the Chief Executives of these organizations (and any others of your choice) in your neighbourhood and make this proposal. If they will provide their full list of donors and/or members with a recommendation or referral to your business you will pay a fixed percentage to their organization for every sale that results. Make the percentage meaningful (perhaps 10% or 15%) and be scrupulous about paying it. Offer to supply them with printed cards naming their organization with the message that each time their patrons shop with you and present this card, they will be effectively donating that percentage of their purchase to the organization
You can expand this many fold if you then ask each customer referred to you if they would like to be responsible for additional donations to their favourite charity. As they are likely to be very receptive to this, it makes it easy to ask them to pass on referral cards to their friends. Just ask them how many cards they would like. This can turn into a real “viral” system of referrals, producing oodles of new customers at the minimal cost of the donation to the charity. It may also get you free media publicity which will further enhance your business.
This system can be extended to schools and other “non-profit” organizations in the community such as Boy Scouts, Community Chests and clubs.
The Donation Referral System This referral system is very simple. Give your products or services away (or significant discounts on your products or services) in local promotions or raffles.
The money for tickets sold in the promotion or raffle go to the promoter (a local charity or non-profit group) but you get the value of having your product and name widely promoted during the event.
If your donation is big enough, you can even ask for a list of the ticket purchasers’ names and addresses so that you can “follow up with a consolation offer” to all those who did not win the major prize.
Alternatively you can do a deal with the promoters whereby, with every ticket purchased, they hand out a discount coupon or card from your business, “to make everyone a winner. ”
When we operated a bowling alley, we always canvassed to local traders for door prizes and tournament prizes for our 24 hour marathons. This guaranteed at least one prize for every entrant in our marathons and also encouraged a good turnout of spectators as our door prizes were drawn at odd times (at least once per hour) during the marathon. Each spectator was required to register with name, address and telephone number to get a ticket and was required to be in-house should his ticket be drawn.
The Hairdressers’ Referral System Like almost everyone, I go to a hairdresser frequently and so do my family members. I have never yet met a hairdresser or barber that couldn’t talk “the hind leg off a donkey”, their chatter is incessant. They get very friendly with their customers, and most customers like this, some becoming like confidantes.
This referral system simply exploits utilizes this feature of getting your hair cut or styled. Just approach the local barbers and hairstylists and offer them $1 or $2 for every referral card they pass out to their customers which is presented to your business. Your card can offer a reasonable discount and have a place on the back for the referring person’s name and the name of the one referred.
You could even motivate them to talk about your business by promising them a percentage of each sale that results from their referral.
If a barber gets 100 customers a week and hands a card to each one, and half of them come to you, you have gained 50 new customers in a week, and the barber has earned an easy $50-$100 or more if you pay him a percentage.
© 2005, Leslie H Sprankling. All Rights Reserved. Leslie H Sprankling is an Australian Business and Marketing Consultant with 30+ years in business. This article was extracted from his new book, “How To Maximize Your Business Growth With Simple ‘Secrets’ Hardly Anyone Is Using” (short title “The Simple Secrets”) which includes many more easy ways to get referrals as well as a multitude of ways to grow your business without breaking your budget. You can get a copy of his new book “The Simple Secrets” at his website, http://www.better-n-chocolate.com/simplesecrets.htm. This website also contains numerous cutting edge software programs that are not available anywhere else on the internet. You will also find more timely business publications to help you develop and grow your business. In addition, you can get many free business articles like this one, for your own use or for publication and distribution.
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