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Heather Townsend

The Excedia Group


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Seven tips to generate referrals


Creating a consistent stream of high quality referrals is the equivalent of the holy grail for most trainers. Heather Townsend shares her tips on how to generate referrals from your networking activities.

Referrals: they are the reason why far too many trainers drag themselves out of bed in the wee small hours to attend breakfast networking clubs. Finding out how to create a consistent stream of high quality referrals is the equivalent of the holy grail for most trainers. Think about it – how much less marketing and sales would you have to do, if you were able to systematically generate referrals from warmed up prospects who were keen to buy from your training business?
So, many independent trainers lust after these referrals, but only a tiny percentage have actually cracked the code which will unlock this permanent drip, drip, drip, of referrals into their training business. So what are switched on trainers actually doing to create the ideal conditions for continual referral generation?
"Your aim when networking is to recruit a massive unpaid sales force for your business."

1 Be specific about what they are looking for

Do you actually know what the ideal referral is? If you don’t know what you are looking for, how on earth do you expect other people to be able to provide you with the right type of referrals? When I talk about being specific, the more specific the better.
If you just want to meet "business owners who need my services", it makes it much harder for people to know who or what you are looking for. Business owners who need my services could be anyone who owns a business. I bet you’ve not thought of anyone in your network based on that description. However, if you can break down business owner into, say, business owners who are fed up with the costs of advertising, and just starting out with networking as their main business development strategy for their business, I bet you can already think of a few in your network.

2 Recruit an army of advocates

The biggest mistake trainers make when networking is to go out prospecting for clients. People don’t go networking to be sold to – and if you go networking with the main aim of finding new clients, I bet you will come away with a set of business cards and not many people who will take your phone call. Your aim when networking is to recruit a massive unpaid sales force for your business. This sales force is going to be your eyes and ears on the ground. Think how much bigger the return on your networking investment is going to be, if you put your energy into planting fruit trees rather than trying to go out and kill bears.

3 Educate their advocates

Before your advocates can routinely start passing you high quality referrals, they need to know how to spot a potential referral for you. This means that they need to know the services you provide, what problems you solve for what type of people – and the typical results you tend to achieve. They also need to know what the rational and emotional barriers are – and how to overcome these barriers – for people wanting to use your services and products. Take your time in one-to-one conversations with key members of your network to do this education process – and make sure you reciprocate and actively educate yourself about their business, and their ideal referral.

4 Actively manage their credibility

When someone gives you a referral they are personally risking their reputation. So, make sure that you are confident in the service that you can provide for others. As well as the success stories, you need to make sure that your web presence also provides reassurance that you know what you are doing – and are able to deliver on your promises.

5 Provide referrals for others

Referral generation is heavily reliant on the social capital you create with others. Social capital is very similar to financial capital – in so far as you can create it, store it and lose it. To accumulate social capital you need to be prepared to regularly help out people within your network. It is no surprise that the members of referral generation groups who get the most referrals are the ones who are regularly providing referrals for members of the group.

6 Routinely ask for referrals

It’s a very simple way of generating referrals – but are you actually asking for them? Yes, are you regularly asking members of your network and existing clients: "Who do you know who needs our services?" Do you have a referral generation programme, which rewards which thank members of your network for a successful referral? It doesn’t need to be something with a high monetary value, but something that demonstrates how much you appreciate the referral.

7 Provide excellent client service to your existing clients

Your current clients are often the best advocates for your services – but this is reliant on you consistently delivering on the promises and expectations. Before you actively start using your current client list to ask for referrals, make sure you can cope with your current workload.

Heather Townsend is the author of The Financial Times Guide To Business Networking. Over the past decade, Heather has worked with more than one hundred partners, coached and trained over 1000 lawyers, accountants and other professionals at every level, within the UK's leading and most ambitious professional practices.She specializes in working with professional services firms and is the founder of The Efficiency Coach.

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Heather Townsend


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