Your Stealth Sales Force: Happy Evangelists Who Sing Your Praises to Everyone and Anyone
Many MSPs have grown healthy, sustainable businesses using nothing more than word-of-mouth. At first, this may seem like an impossibility, but when you examine what successful MSPs are doing to encourage their partners to provide leads it seems far more realistic.
The first and most important component of an ongoing and active partner referral network is genuine client satisfaction and engagement. Referrals usually don’t come from customers who are “sort of happy” or “kind of satisfied,” which, in all honestly, probably describes most of your customers. Referrals will come from your outliers—a group that we identify as the “Happy Evangelists.”
Happy Evangelists share some common traits. They are more likely to be connectors and networkers in their circles to begin with. Naturally gregarious and active in their communities, they will regularly come in to contact with more potential referral opportunities than most of your clients—and their natural (or practiced) impulse is to introduce great people to other great people. So your first most important order of business should be making sure you are one of those “great people.”
Your second important task? When you identify a client on your roster who could be an Evangelist on your behalf, you need to make sure they’re 100 percent happy. A Happy Evangelist will become a part of your sales and marketing team. They will provide testimonials, references and most importantly, referrals. Happy Evangelists are amazing because they provide passive referrals, which are referrals you do nothing to inspire other than by being one of the “great people” in the market. Happy Evangelists want their peers to experience the same amazing level of service they receive, so they sing your praises from the rooftop—that is when they’re happy! An Evangelist that isn’t happy may not take his grievances to a public forum, but you’ll lose plenty of potential opportunities for introductions!
Happy Evangelists referrals alone are likely not enough to build your business year after year. When you hear that an MSP is growing their business through referrals, you likely picture them receiving passive referrals. Successful MSPs don’t wait for their clients to walk referrals to their door. They go out and ask for them. You can build an entire sales program around an active referral network. It’s more work than waiting for passive referrals, but it’s a whole lot easier than cold prospecting. The best thing about building a referral network? It costs practically nothing and you can start doing it right now!
The best client to ask for a referral will be your Happy Evangelists. They’re already bringing you referrals, so you know they’re comfortable providing them. They love your service otherwise they wouldn’t be referring you. One of the factors to consider with a Happy Evangelist is they aren’t sending you referrals with the expectation of reciprocity, so inviting them to provide referrals in exchange for cash may actually be insulting to them. A simple conversation where you acknowledge how grateful you are for the impact their referrals have on your business—and sharing with them what that impact looks like—is likely thanks enough for this client. (A personalized and thoughtful thank-you gift never hurts, though.)
Now that you’ve acknowledged how valuable they are to your business—as a client and a partner—do a little bit of leg work. Who do they know or do business with that you’d like an introduction to? Instead of waiting for there to be the perfect opportunity for them to suggest you to their network, meet with your Happy Evangelist and outline your plan for business growth. Then, share with them the contacts in their network (use social media to find them) that you have identified as potential great fits for your business. Ask them for an introduction to those contacts. Imagine if you were able to secure even six warm introductions this year from every person who has already given you a referral? As you expand your network, your opportunity to ask for referrals expands as well. You’re not limited to only your Happy Evangelists as you build out. You can ask anyone you meet for a referral using a very simple question: “Who do you know that might need our services?” Ask everyone you talk to. End every conversation you have this way!
One word of guidance? If you are not certain that your clients are happy with the service you’re providing, you should first spend some time getting your house in order. It’s important that you know with certitude which of your clients are delighted with you before you send them out to introduce you to their peers. Imagine this conversation:
“Joe, the CEO from my IT company, would really like the opportunity to meet with you!”
“Oh, we’re really happy with our current provider, they’re really responsive, as a matter of fact, they (solved a problem…) just this week. It was amazing!”
“Interesting. Maybe you should introduce me to YOUR IT company!”
Before you ask clients if they will refer you, ask them why they would or would not refer you based on their last experience with your team. Build better client relationships, and then build out your referral network.