By Andy Bounds

Everyone knows how wonderful referrals are.

The only problem with referrals: there are never enough of them! I mean, how many times has somebody — with no input from you — proactively recommended you to your ideal buyer?

Referrals are so critical to maintaining momentum that you must master how to trigger them. This means referrals should be a key element of your Marketing Plan. You must work hard to trigger them, rather than forgetting the fact that — to quote Rick Page — “Hope is not a strategy”.

I have implemented successful referral strategies for organisations all over the world. I have worked with the world’s largest referral organisation, showing their directors how to teach others how to generate referrals. My experiences have shown there are four simple rules your business must follow to maximise referrals. These all sound fairly obvious, but does your business do them all effectively, rigorously and consistently... all the time?

Rule 1: Do more than nothing

If you want to get more referrals, you have to ask for them.

People rarely (never?) refer you unless you ask them to. Doing a good job for a customer doesn’t cut it. After all, they expect you to do a good job.

Set yourself a goal asking for referrals each week... and stick to it. (Make sure you base your goal on the activity of asking, not the results of getting them. Referrals are notoriously hard to predict. If your goal was "I'm going to get three referrals every week", some weeks you'd only have to ask one person; some weeks, fifty. This is not a sustainable way of doing things).

Rule 2: Help them start

Recently, a Bank’s Senior Manager told me he wanted referrals into - wait for it - “anybody with or without money”. I told him this was so vague that I didn’t know where to start, so I wasn’t starting.

After a couple of questions, we identified that he wanted to speak to high-net-worth individuals based in my home town of Liverpool. I know loads of them, so he got loads of referrals.

Help referrers start, by being crystal clear who you want to speak to — sector, size, location, person within the organisation etc. If you ask for 'anybody', you'll get nobody.

Rule 3: Prepare your script

Since people often feel uncomfortable asking for referrals, you should create and practise scripts you will use when asking for them. The time invested in this repays itself many times over - once you have your scripts that work, you'll use them all the time. In my experience, the best scripts usually involve two questions — for instance...

• For customers...
o “What is the most valuable thing my business has brought to yours? (eg ‘You have saved me lots of time’)”
o “Who do you know who also... (Insert their answer — eg ‘...would like to save time?’)”

• Own your own business? Try this with your friends and family...
o “I really want to make a success of my new business. Please could you help me?” (Yes)
o “Who do you know who... (Insert specific targets, as per Rule 2 above — eg ‘...is a high-net-worth individual based in Liverpool?')

Rule 4: Polish the gold

It is easier to get multi-referrals from one person, than it is to get one referral each from multi referrers.

Therefore, treat referrers like gold dust.

• Ensure they want to refer you again
• Work hard to enhance the referrer’s reputation every time you meet with their contact
• Reward them for the referral (Note: don't just give cash — maybe invite them to useful events, market their business to your contacts, refer them into someone, offer them free advice... anything).

Winner of Britain's Sales Trainer of the Year, Andy Bounds helps businesses transform performance by communicating and selling more effectively. Credited by his clients with helping them win £billions and author of international best-seller The Jelly Effect - how to make your communication stick, Andy is one of the most sought-after consultants in the UK today.

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