Hey, it’s Samantha Hartley of the Profitable Joyful Consulting Podcast. I am so excited to welcome you to the beginning of Season 12, Episode 131. I’m counting because only 6% of podcasters ever make it past their 10th episode. It is with your support, involvement, engagement, sharing and asking questions, plus downloading things that I have made it here. I’m proud of myself and I’m super grateful to you for that.
Up until now, I have themed each season, so we’ve been talking about marketing or consulting skills. What I want to do with this season is in each episode we’ll have a topic, and I’m going to begin to share with you what the drivers of a consulting business are.
Today we’re going to talk about five ways that you can be getting more referrals for your business. This is really unusual, but referrals are actually about strategic visibility. It’s about staying top of mind with exactly the right people. Not everybody in the entire universe, but with people who can send you good referrals. We’re going to talk about who they are and how to make that happen.
Referrals are about strategic visibility. So I could go in some kind of order where I’m like, five, four, three, two, one and save the best for last. But I’m not going to do that because let’s just get to the point.
There is one big, huge way that you can get more referrals for your consulting business. I’m going to start there: Close the referrals that are sent to you. Close them, enroll them, sign them up as clients. This is the best way to ensure that you get more referrals coming to you is that you close them. One of the most annoying things that ever happens is when you send referrals and they say, “Oh, that one didn’t work out and this one didn’t work.” Like what is going on with that?
You want to enroll them as your client. This is win, win, win. When you close a referral, it makes the person who sent you the referral look good. They’re like, “Oh, it did work out!” The second thing is the person who’s coming to you, the one being referred to you is like, “I want my problem to be solved. I want to begin the ending of this situation.” They really want your help and then the third person who’s helped is you. So it really serves everyone for you to enroll these clients.
Years ago I was in a program and the leader of it gave referrals out to everyone who was participating in the program. Over time I started to get more referrals than anybody else, and there was a little envy going on in the group of like, “What’s up with that? Why does he favor her and why does he give her all the referrals?”
The truth is that he had been distributing them among several people for a while, but I was the one who was closing them. So I’m actually helping more people than the people who are getting referrals and don’t close them. Keep that in mind.
What we want when we send referrals is for them to turn into business for that person, and for our person to be helped. You help everybody when you close those referrals. So get good at that.
The second big, huge thing and this is a little more obvious is to: Get incredible results for your clients. You want to get results that are so good that people want to send others to you to get results just like them. So when we get great results for our clients, one of the first things that happens is those clients like, it’s good news, they want to evangelize about you. So your own client base can be the place where most of your referrals come from. In my case, I have a group coaching program and they’ll often bring in their buddies, their colleagues to join the program, which I love because it’s other people just like them, right?
So if you’re working with perfect clients and they refer people to you then you have even more perfect clients because like attracts like. So getting incredible results that people want to talk about and want to share is a great way to get referrals from the people who work with you.
You get to talk about your results. When you are doing your marketing or you’re doing case studies and you’re just sharing testimonials and things, that’s a great topic for you to share with referral partners. So the good results that you get actually multiply the good things, keep being good and turning into even better things.
The third way that you can get more referrals is to: Thank people for sending referrals to you. There’s about three ways that I can think of to do this. The first thing is, I recently sent a referral to someone who’s a distant colleague, not someone I know really well, but I thought, “Oh, that’s exactly what she does.”
I never heard anything back, I didn’t even get an acknowledgement. I’m not so needy that I needed a thank you, but it’s just good manners. Also we want to encourage in people the behavior that we want to continue. In this case, I had to chase down the person I referred to and say, “Did you ever talk to them, how did that go?”
First of all, as you can hear, she didn’t close the person I sent, which is the first thing that I would have wanted to have happen. But there was just bad manners, no acknowledgment that this happened.
So for goodness sake, no matter how the referral goes, at least acknowledge with a thank you that someone has done a nice thing for you. I’m doing somebody’s marketing for them by sending them business. It’s a layup.
Three ways to thank people for referrals:
- Phone call or handwritten note
- Pay commissions on referrals
The reason I pay commissions on referrals is because I really want to incentivize that, and because I work in a business situation a lot of people referring business to me are other business people. Money is cool, right? Send them money! It’s a great way to thank them for it. If they send a lot of people, I want to encourage people to send a lot of business my way. So I’m happy to send a lot of money because they’re taking care of a lot of our sales and marketing costs. So it makes sense to do this.
If you feel like it sounds expensive, what you’re looking at is a benchmark of about 10%. In some cases it could be 20%. If it is a corporate engagement or anything like that, then 10% should be fair. I never want to give more than I feel happy giving. So you can put a little markup on that client so that you fold the fee into the work. That way you don’t feel like you’re getting underpaid for what’s coming to you.
There are plenty of places and cultures in which thanking someone with a financial remuneration is not appropriate. I get that and those places are a lot of Europe and Canada and sometimes Australia. If you have a culture where it doesn’t look nice to do that, then you can think about other ways to thank people. But money is becoming more and more acceptable in a lot of places.
I have, however, worked with people where it wasn’t exactly kosher to send money to, let’s say people who worked at the chamber of commerce or in certain kinds of organizations. Or definitely financial advisors. If you cannot thank them with money, then come up with a nice idea for a gift. Thanking them is the key. Acknowledging that you got something from them out of the generosity of their heart is really the key.
The fourth way to get more referrals is to: Be visible to people who are potential referral partners for you. You want to think in terms of who else serves this audience or is in front of my audience, but doesn’t necessarily do exactly what I do. Who serves the same audience as your business, but doesn’t compete? This is a good rule of thumb for this one.
In my experience, I’ve gotten referrals from business insurers, business bankers and payroll companies. People who worked at the chamber of commerce and very most often from my actual clients and colleagues. It’s important that people know what you do and that you’re visible to them.
You don’t have to be literally visible, although some really great ways to increase your referrals is to have regular coffee chats with people. If you have LinkedIn coffee chats that you’re doing and you’re not sure like what’s our relationship to each other going to be? Asking for referrals of those people is a great way to make that happen.
Make sure that you are visible, whether in one-on-one meetings or in email communication so that your name comes up. We just want to keep you top of mind and this is the strategic visibility aspect.
Then the last thing that we want to do when we’re top of mind is ask for referrals, asking is always the big one. I want to make sure that it’s not just about asking, you need to: Know what makes a good referral for you. Being able to articulate clearly what a good referral for you is, this is the assignment for all of us.
How often have you been in situations where you hear someone say, “Well, it’s really anyone who or will, it’s any company that…” No, it’s not any. It’s not any, it never, ever is. It needs to be a crisp and clear referral statement that they can keep in their minds and know who to send your way. When it’s mushy like that, you’re going to end up with mushy referrals at best. When people aren’t clear about who to send you, they probably won’t send anyone.
Now, why do I have to tell people who are in my programs, or who are my colleagues who really know me well, the kind of referrals that are good for me? It’s because we don’t want them to have to guess. I don’t want people to be like, “Well, I think it’s probably for people who blah blah blah, no, don’t make them do homework.” If you want to have a thing happen, let’s direct them with a specific thing that will tell them what’s a good referral.
When you’re articulating for yourself what a good referral for you is, the first thing you want to look at is demographics. This means what kind of a company or organization?
We want to direct people to the kind of company first before we get to what’s going on and what makes them a fit. So you can say, small nonprofits or large nonprofits or a division of one. You can say mid-sized manufacturing companies located in these places. You can say, health care facilities who have overnight nurses, whatever is going to be your designation. You really want to help people picture in their mind what kind of an organization makes a good referral for you.
Then we can get into psychographics, which is what kind of problems they’re having, or what kind of outcomes they’re wanting. I personally think that sometimes if you talk about outcomes, it can be a little too mushy, like they want to grow or they want to turn their plans into strategies.
Those can be helpful, but sometimes it’s really more memory jogging and prompting if you give them something that they can hang on to like: they’re missing deadlines, or they’re starting to lose their top talent. It can also be good things happening like: they’ve just hired a bunch of new salespeople, they’re having an uptick in sales, they’ve just brought along a lot of salespeople.
So I want to be able to describe something that a referral partner could see from outside of the organization, such as missing deadlines, losing top talent, or hiring a lot of salespeople.
Easily identifiable demographics, and then the psychographic, which is the quality of those companies. Either what’s going wrong or what could be going right with them. That is going to help you to craft a message that other people will be able to understand and then say, “Oh, this is who I want to bring in, this is the kind of thing that they want to replicate.” That is going to help you to get more referrals.
Now you might be wondering what’s a good referral for me? Thank you for asking, it’s going to be someone with a title like corporate consultant, H.R. Consultant, DEI, leadership consultant. Or they might have a title like fractional CMO, CFO, or one of those.
Probably the person that you’re talking to is struggling because they have too many one offs that they’re doing, which means it’s putting them on the revenue roller coaster. From the outside, you’re going to see that they do a lot of projects, and they don’t have a lot of continuity for long term client engagements.
The revenue roller coaster is scary and it means that you are underearning. That is exactly the kind of person that I like. So if you know someone like that, I would love it if you would refer her to me, and you might do that by sharing this podcast with her.
I thank you so much for listening. I am wishing you an amazing new season and a Profitable and Joyful Consulting Business.