How can you get more referrals for your business?
Posted by Molly Wendell // in Networking
A couple months ago, I partially tore my right hamstring. This was nothing compared to what I did to my left hamstring two years ago – where I completely tore the hamstring from the bone. How did this happen? Nothing fancy really, I was just helping my niece learn to ride a two-wheeler. At first, it wasn’t a problem, because she didn’t pedal very fast. All of a sudden, her confidence building, she took off. I was running as fast as I could (while bent halfway over – trying to maintain a hold onto the seat to keep her upright). Not but a few seconds later, I heard the tear…and felt the pain.
About three weeks prior to doing this, a friend told me about ART (Active Release Therapy). It’s a method to speed up healing. After the tear, I thought, I really don’t have time to be injured. I found Dr. Nathan Campbell – a sports therapist/ART practitioner. He’s a chiropractor as well, and while I’m not a fan of chiropractic (as I believe that a steady yoga practice will do all that chiropractic does – and more!), I set an appointment. Long story short (too late, right?!), in less than two months, my hamstring feels healed, I’m back to doing everything I did before…plus.
As Dr. Campbell was working on my hamstring we started talking about his business. I asked him how he got his clients. Mostly through referral, he said, but he’s also in a networking group that meets weekly. Now I had even more questions. How long have you been in it? How often do you meet? How many clients have you gotten from the group?
He’s been in it more than a year. He meets weekly for 1½ hours (not including drive time), and he’s gotten a whopping five clients.
And that’s about the time I freaked out!
WHHHHHAAAAAATTTTTT??????? What are you thinking? Do you realize you’ve just spent more than 70 hours of your life producing five clients? Do you have any idea how much that’s cost you? Give me five hours and I’ll find you five clients. Because really, everyone I know has some type of injury that could probably be healed with ART. Just hang out with a bunch of weekend warriors and you’ve got a client base for life, right?
That’s when we started talking about the value of networking, and approaching it from a more efficient standpoint. Too many people do the activities that others do – thinking they’ll get the same results. When, maybe, they should question the effectiveness of the results to begin with.
Now I’m not knocking these weekly referral groups (or maybe I am?), but if I’m in a group and I’m not getting at least one lead a week, then I’m hanging out with the wrong referral group. In turn, if I’m in a group, and I’m not giving at least one lead a week to the majority of people in that group, I’m not an effective referral source for these people. And my seat at the table should go to someone else.
Everyone in that group is looking for leads, and should have the attitude that they give a lot and get a lot. Most people I know who join groups like this though, have the same experience as Dr. Campbell. I used to work with a national site selection company for meeting planners. At that time, the big trend for all of the salespeople was to join one of these referral groups. I think one person actually got one lead from their group – and the concept spread like wildfire throughout the country. But over and over, I saw the same results. Lots of hours spent driving to and attending these meetings, and not a lot of business to show for it.
Honestly, when you do the math, and look at the return on investment, you’re probably better off standing outside the grocery store wearing a sandwich board – catching a draft from the Girl Scout’s cookie sale.
So, how do you do it? How do you get leads, if not from a lead referral group? Leads are like air. They’re everywhere. But unlike air, they’re not a free commodity. You have to build the relationship. You have to earn the right.
I get a lot of phone calls from people trying to tap into Executives Network – and sell their services. Over and over, I let them know that we’re not the right fit for their sales pitch. But here’s the funny thing. For every person that calls, if I really thought about it, most likely I could come up with five people – be it friends, colleagues, acquaintances – who could probably benefit from their services. If they built a relationship with me, I just might be inclined to send business their way. But instead, most of them hang up and I never hear from them again.
It reminds me of a rookie football player. You don’t show up in the beginning of football season and simply play in the Super Bowl. You have to earn it week in and week out. Each successful week brings you that much closer to making the playoffs – and continued success finds you the star of the most-watched sporting event on television.
Quit trying to go for the big win before you’ve ever played a game.
Start with building a relationship one-on-one. How do you start building a relationship? Go to a networking event that would include logical referral types. Are you an accountant, hang out with some lawyers (and vice versa). Are you in HR consulting? Start attending CFO oriented events. Are you in the consumer space, depending on your target market, go to those big home shows, art fairs, and grocery stores.
Get involved in a charity. Get involved in an association. Start a meetup oriented around something in which you have interest. Do something to get with like-minded people who you can build the foundations of a relationship. And then, once you have those relationships, you’ll be on much firmer ground to get help in your business. Your newfound friends really want to help you succeed.
You’ve heard it said, “People buy from people they like.” Well, people refer people they like too! Get engaged. Get connected. Build relationships. And hold on for the ride. Just make sure my niece and her two-wheeler aren’t at the helm!