Everyone talks about how to get referrals — the ways to get your existing clients to refer you to a new pool of people.
We’re guilty of this, too. We’ve written about how to build your agency through referrals, the wrong ways to ask for referrals, and how to do the work for your clients so they’ll be more likely to refer you.
Well, that’s all great to know, but what the heck do you do once you actually get a referral? There’s not a lot of information out there about how to turn your referrals into new clients. It’s like everyone is more focused on getting names and contact information than learning how to turn those leads into new clients. They sure don’t move through the sales pipeline on their own.
So, this week, we’re going to talk about what you should do after you get a referral. It’s true that those names and contact information are extremely important – but just as important is how you initially reach out to these people and make the sale.
Here are four steps you should take after you receive a referral, helping you turn that referral into a new client:
Get to know each other
While a referral offers an excellent first impression and helps you get your foot in the door, you still have a lot of work to do. Once a client passes you a referral, your goal is to find out if your services are a good match for this prospective client. Take the time at the beginning of the relationship to talk about goals and the services the prospective client is looking for (you can do this via phone or email, although an in-person meeting is the most effective). You’ll save a lot of time and energy in the long run if you make the effort in the discovery phase. Don’t assume all referrals are a good fit.
Build the relationship
Once you’ve identified a referral that seems like a good match for your business, it’s time to build the relationship. You may not have to go through this step for all prospective clients – depending on the context and the existing relationship, it may be appropriate to start a working relationship right away. However, there will be some cases where you want to establish a relationship before closing the deal (you want the prospective client to like you and want to work with you!). You could do this by inviting the prospective client to your office to meet the team or by offering to give a presentation about your company to the prospective client’s organization. Even better, invite the prospective client to one of your events! Let him see you in action.
Make the sale
Eventually, you’ll have to ask for what you want – a signed contract. There are a number of ways you can close the sale with prospective clients. If you’ve had a couple meetings together and both seem to be on the same page, you could simply say, “I love the direction we’re going. I can begin working on this project next week. Does that timeframe work for you?” In this scenario, you’re not blatantly asking the prospect if he wants to hire you. Instead, you’re focusing on the work and results you can deliver. You could also offer a trial period to prospective clients. Let’s say you’ve only talked to a referral once, and you’re not 100% sure about his goals or his business needs. You can move the ball forward by saying something like, “I enjoyed our chat last week and am excited to learn more about you and your organization. How would you feel about starting a three-month trial period to see how we work together?” You’re making the barrier to entry very low, yet giving the prospective client an opportunity to see your great work.
Stay in touch
Not all referrals will result new clients. Some prospective clients may not be ready to hire a new agency or may not have enough money in the budget to afford you. Either way, you still need to stay in contact with these referrals – send them your newsletter, your webinar invites, or even a personal email every couple months to check in. You want to stay top of mind with these connections because as soon as they get a bigger budget or need a new agency, you want to be the go-to person.
Getting referrals is a powerful way to grow your business. And, it’s not easy to build a successful referral program where your existing clients are regularly introducing you to new people. You should spend a lot of time and effort in this first phase: actually getting referrals from your clients. But, it’s a mistake to forget about your sales strategy after you get a referral. You need to always be thinking about how to interact with these prospective clients and how to get them to convert to a paying customer. Otherwise, you’ll have dozens of clients passing you referrals and no idea what to say to them.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, how have you turned a referral into a client? Share your success story or lesson learned in the comments below!