In part one last week, I outlined the process for identifying who your best referral partners should be, who the top centers of influence are, in your market...why you want to aim for having a Top 100 Referral Partner network, and how to easily find the most serious players, using LinkedIn. And I broke down the numbers, to show you exactly how many clients you might be able to get from this approach.
(HINT: You can get a lot of clients from this approach)
Today, we’re going to talk about the best way to connect with these referral partners, and how to quickly & easily build a relationship with them.
(Here’s a link to the masterclass I mention in the training)
Because we both know, referrals are the best leads you get. I read a study recently that surveyed 7,500 businesses and found that 85% said that referrals are the best way to get customers.
That shouldn’t be surprising.
According to Neilson, people are 4 times more likely to buy through referrals.
A study from the Wharton School of business found that those customers remain valuable - with a 16% higher Lifetime Customer Value.
Another study found that companies with formalized referral programs experience 86% more revenue growth, compared to others.
Yet, only 30% of companies surveyed have a formalized referral program.
Honestly, I was surprised to hear it’s even that high...because the vast majority of businesses I see out there don’t have a proactive referral system. What most have amounts to nothing more than hoping and wishing that referrals will come in.
Sometimes they do… and sometimes they don’t.
The problem is, most people can’t really rely on JUST referrals to achieve your goals. Not unless you have a solid system to produce referrals, one that is guaranteed to deliver consistently.
The key to an effective referral system is to focus on building relationships with your referral partners. You can’t just expect people to send you their clients unless they really trust you. They have to feel like they know you. They have to see that you’re an expert so that they know that the people they send your way will be well taken care of. As much as referrals are a good thing, referring people who don’t do a good job can destroy your business.
Turning Connections Into Conversations
The very first step in this process, which I covered last week, is to create a list of your top 100 connections. Now that you have that, what’s next? You need to connect and start the conversation, you can do that in three steps…
Step 1: Connect. First you need to identify your best referral partners (we covered this in detail in part one) and then start connecting with them on LinkedIn.
Step 2: Convince. Once you’ve made the connection - you need to invite them to a conversation. Share with them that they are part of your top 100 list and why that is of great benefit to them.
Step 3: Converse. In order to really build trust, you need an actual conversation with the person. this can be over the phone or in-person - but people need to get to know you in order to trust you. Spending some time crafting that initial conversation is well worth your time.
Making the Connection
Once you’ve identified a prospect as a potential fit to be a great referral partner for you...now it’s time to get connected. On LinkedIn, this is really easy to do.
You can send a connection request to anybody. And with this process, we recommend you include a personal note along with your connection request, and have it say something like this:
Keep the note casual and informal. You are not writing an ad. It’s important you don’t sound like you are selling them on anything.
That being said, be sure to insert whatever market you are in. This could be your local area or your industry. The entire point is to make this feel relevant to them.
This message sweetens the deal for the prospect because we actually are going to send THEM referrals! Who wouldn’t say no to that right?
But you might be wondering, ”How am I actually going to give people referrals? I’m not sure if I want to do that.”
Well, here’s the deal...
In the beginning, when you have a bunch of bad asses in your referral network, you can simply refer your referral partners to each other. . You know that they are interested in being part of your referral network, so you know that they’ll value having conversations with the other people in your network.
So, fulfilling on the promise is easy. And honestly most people won’t remember that you promised to send referrals their way. You’ll make friends very quickly and establish your leadership by helping your network connect with each other.
So for now, trust me when I say, this positioning really works very well. It will set you up to have amazing success and have the right people in your network.
Then as you meet more people and start to grow your client base find you have more than enough opportunities to refer business to each other. Remember, your network isn’t a network of your competitors. Just people who work with the same types of people or prospects that you do.
Remember to start small and take your time on this step. You want to have time to have conversations with the people who are joining your network.
Moving From Connection to Conversation
From here, the next step, after we’ve gotten connected on LinkedIn, is to send them a message on LinkedIn like this:
So let’s break this message down. First off, you’re again making it clear that you’re building a referral network, and that you're hopeful that it will result in a lot of business changing hands. Pretty transparent, right?
That’s one of the things I love about this. You’re being totally up-front with them about your intentions...while at the same time, you are making it worth their time to meet with you.
Now, of course, this strategy just like anything else is a numbers game. You’ll send connection requests to people who won’t respond, and that’s ok. You’ll send messages like the one I just shared, and some people won’t respond. Again, that’s ok. It’s a numbers game.
A lot of people WILL respond favorably, and those are the ones to focus on. Either way, it’s important that you follow up. Stopping at just one message is the biggest mistake I see people make with this strategy.
How To Handle Your Initial Conversation
Once you’ve sent this first message, people will be wanting to talk to you. To get the most out of these conversations, you need to be prepared. And, keep in mind that these people are agreeing to chat with you in the hopes that you’ll be able to help them.
Having a call agenda will go a long way to making the call more productive. Here’s a simple agenda that has worked for me and for our clients:
Thank them for taking the call
Give a quick recap of the referral network concept.
Ask them to tell you about their business.
Tell them about how you’re looking forward to connecting them with some of the other people in the network.
Ask them what kind of referrals are best for them?
Tell them a little about your business, and the kinds of referrals are best for you.
And finally, and this is a really important one...
Let them know that you’ll be sending them a personal email once a month, with some updates and to keep in touch, and to make sure the referral network stays top of mind.
This last point is very important because it’s this monthly personal email that allows you to continually stay top-of-mind.
To illustrate why this is key, take a look at this study that Microsoft did. They surveyed over 13,000 salespeople and found some remarkable things.
Over half of salespeople have given up after the first contact...which I think is amazing...but skip ahead to contact #9. By that time, you have a 90% chance of getting the business. That’s because there’s nobody else still in the game. This just goes to show the power of long term follow up and continually making the touches. But you can’t just throw people into your Mailchimp account or Infusionsoft account. It only counts if you are sending personal messages because people ignore marketing messages and emails that are clearly automated.
That’s where Connect 365 comes in because it works with your PERSONAL email to send messages that are automated, but they look like you wrote them one at a time.
Now, at this point, you might be thinking, “Josh, I thought you said this system was automated. When does that come in?”
You're absolutely right. Up to this point, everything we’ve done has to be done manually. You need to hand-select the right people for your referral network, and you need to put in a little time to have the initial conversation with them to kickstart the relationship.
Next week in part 3, I’ll show you the ongoing marketing strategy, the messages to send, how to automate it, and how to combine this with social media, to have a complete system to position you as an authority and make sure people see you and your content everywhere.