Andy Lopata, Guest Author
Your clients are, without doubt, in the best place to refer you. After all, they both know what you do and why people need that help but they can also vouch for the quality of your products or services.
I always feel, however, that you have to temper asking clients for referrals with the need to focus more closely on what you deliver to them.
Rather than ask clients ‘who else can you refer me to’ when you’ve just delivered a service, wait for the opportunity to ask for a specific introduction which makes perfect sense to them and is easy for them to pass.
Competitive instinct aside, businesses do talk to each other. And while your clients may not make introductions to their competitors for you, they may well talk about you to them.
Additionally, if you are working across a large organisation you often need early adopters in one division to use your services to gain a foothold. If you are going to develop your business with other divisions, those early adopters can be vitally important, talking about you and spreading the word.
Let your clients know that you are looking for new business in their industry, or their firm. Remember, people are far more likely to talk about negative experiences than positive, so make sure that you exceed their expectations and give them something positive worth talking about.
A number of clients I’ve worked with host presentation and information days for prospective clients. At these events they often ask existing customers to come along and share their own story of working with them.
If your existing clients are willing to advocate your services, look for opportunities to introduce them to your prospects. If it’s not in such formal surroundings as a presentation, can you introduce them at social and networking events, or pass on their phone number?
Finally, ask happy clients if they will leave testimonials for you on LinkedIn, provide a testimonial on your website or record a brief video to share their experience of working with you. The latter can be easily recorded in good quality on a smart phone or tablet, as I have done with these.
If you’ve successfully worked with one company in a particular sector, you’ll find it much easier to work with others. Rather than be defensive about you having worked with their competitors, many companies will be reassured that you understand their industry and are equipped to handle their needs.
If you develop a strong relationship with your clients they will often give you an insight into what the biggest challenges in their sector are, who the key players and influencers are, what your competitors are doing and where your focus should be.
FIVE: Reality Check
We all like being praised by our clients and hearing how effective our services are. But we should work harder to find out what we could be doing better. If you don’t ask, often you won’t find out until it’s too late.
Don’t just ask for feedback immediately after delivering to a client but go back three or six months later (a lot depends on what you are providing them with) to find out how things are working and whether your services have had the desired effect.
And ask what you could do to improve. You’ll both stand a greater chance of securing further business but also step up your game with your next order and next client.
Copyright © 2013 – Andy Lopata. Reprinted with permission. Labeled “Mr Network” by The Sun, Andy Lopata was called “one of Europe’s leading business networking strategists” by the Financial Times. The co-author of two books on networking, Andy is a featured columnist the US magazine “The National Networker,” as well as being regularly quoted in the national press. Previously, Andy was Managing Director of UK network Business Referral Exchange. Andy has since worked with companies from one-man bands to organisations such as NatWest Bank, Merrill Lynch and Mastercard to help them realise the full potential from their networking. He is a former vice-president of the Professional Speakers Association. Visit Andy’s Website and BLOG.
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