When making a new purchase or selecting a new service provider, how much more like are you to rely upon one that has come highly recommended versus one that hasn’t? Evaluate some of the more significant decisions you’ve made lately and consider those you have made only after talking it through with a close friend, family member or colleague. We value the opinions of those we trust. This is no different for your network of potential customers.
Referral sources serve as trusted resources in the professional realm and can greatly influence business in your favor. Establishing solid referral relationships can be critical in your achieving your sales objectives, both short and long term. The first step is identifying possible partners, and the second is ensuring that the benefit is mutual, and the third is delivering on your promise to one another to generate qualified leads and collectively, exponentially expand your networks.
Review your current circle of influence and consider where you might look to establish these relationships:
- Current customers. Look among your existing clients as a great place to start looking for referral partners. You might already be working with a client served by a referral partner with whom you seek to develop a referral relationship. So, you can either informally ask your clients questions that could help identify a potential source, or you can ask your customers in a direct fashion in order to find one.
- Local networking groups and affiliations. If there are local business meetups or similar gatherings for business professionals in your area, be sure to take advantage of them as potential resources for generating referral partners. While you can’t expect to establish referral partners at first meeting of your fellow professionals at these events but you can at least lay some of the groundwork by attending and meeting new people.
- Industry associations and events. Similarly, the industry in which you work might hold conferences or tradeshows that serve as hunting grounds for identifying and meeting potential referral partners. Make sure to attend these events and meeting with an eye to both exhibitors and attendees who could make for strong potential partners.
- Current colleagues. Don’t forget that your coworkers can be excellent referral partners. It could be that you have a peer within your organization who provides a similar or complementary service to customers in your market. These individuals make ideal partners because it is not only a seamless fit and in common interest, it is also because it is easier for each of you to manage your expectations over the outcome of the relationship. If it skews more in favor of one or the other, you’re still on the same team.
Remember, developing referral partners is a two-way street. Having conversations about expectations early on will set you both up for success. It’s also a good idea to agree upon how to track business exchanged between you and your referral partner, and be sure to have a regular review of the relationship to ensure that it maintains as mutually beneficial for the long-term.