Business development
for professionals

The power of referrals – and how to get them

Referrals – or recommendations – are the life blood of professional services. Think how many times you have asked colleagues or peers for the best agency or specialist that they have used… so could you be asking your clients to recommend you?

The evidence for personal referrals is clear, with McKinsey Institute reporting that “Word-of-mouth is the primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions.” This isn’t just about verbal connections either, but the growth in social media means that online now plays a huge part in this process too, as Boston Consulting Group have found: “66 percent of the respondents consult friends and family and 50 percent consult consumer opinions online before purchasing”, which makes getting your social presence right more important than ever. Whilst social selling is partly about what content you post, it can also be about responding to requests for recommendations through your connections.

In this piece from HubSpot, they list some quick and easy way to get referrals, but think through this checklist first to make sure you’re not wasting your (or your contacts’) time:

1. What do you want to achieve?
Do you want 2 new clients, or 10? Do you just want people to put you in touch with their contacts, or do you want a full blown testimonial to go on your website? If it’s a mix of both, make sure you spell that out and then think about who will give the best case study – and is most likely to do it…

2. Who should you approach?
Make sure you don’t just ask your friends, but a client who will endorse you for exactly the kind of work that you want to grow. So if you have varied service lines, get a testimonial for the one that works well as your entry point into a new client organisation.
If you have a long list of clients and don’t know where to start, then try and rank them according to these criteria but also how well the project went and what evidence you have of that. A nice quote supported with some meaty figures on ROI is perfect.
If you’re only asking them to mention your name, then you’ll have be able to drop these facts into conversation later.

3. How can you make it easy?
If you think your contact won’t have the time to write anything (even if just a couple of lines for LinkedIn), the best way to do this is to write it for them. I have done this with clients previously and as long as you’re not extolling your own virtues into the realms of fiction, most people are happy that you’ve done the hard work part for them.

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