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Relationship building can be tricky for even the most polished agent or sales executive. Gaining the right clients through word-of-mouth is an art that requires intuition, persistence and maybe a little charm.
December 8, 2014
By Melinda Curran
Telecom providers today are savvy communicators, synchronizing email, social media and website content to increase business. While integrated marketing strategies grow in complexity and number, word-of-mouth is the tried-and-true foundation of gaining referrals in the channel.
Relationship building can be tricky for even the most polished agent or sales executive. While casting a wide net can bring in scores of prospective clients, not all referrals are a prized catch. Gaining the right clients through word-of-mouth is an art that requires intuition, persistence and maybe a little charm.
Simply put, generating referrals comes from effectively leveraging the satisfaction of current clients. Companies are often inclined to leave this up to chance, should the opportunity arise in conversation, but the results of a well-developed referral strategy far outweigh the simplicity of wishful thinking. Businesses should have a playbook for generating referrals, so here’s some tips to keep in mind when seeking new leads:
Ask and ye shall receive. Asking for referrals is a natural part of most business relationships, but opening the two-way road can feel awkward at first. People have an inherent tendency to want to help others, especially when it is asked of them. So be confident when you step out on a limb to speak about possible referrals, and remember they’re on your side.
Name drop, but keep it casual. From the moment you initiate contact with a referral, keep the tone conversational. Mention the name of the person who connected you and briefly explain how you helped them achieve general cost savings or successes. By resisting the urge to spill all about you and your company upfront, you can keep the focus on the potential client and his or her needs.
Make it easy. Open-ended questions can be highly demanding of a client. Instead of overwhelming a customer with “Who else do you know that might be interested in working with us?” frame each question to the individual and company you are speaking with. Focus their attention on two or three people they know at other companies who have similar responsibilities. People can more easily call to mind a referral after being asked a narrowed question.
Stretch good referrals to marketing. A testimonial is the gift that keeps on giving. Incorporating client endorsements into marketing material and case studies adds credibility to your company’s name and can be used to spark conversations over and over.
Show gratitude. More important than making a sale is continuing the great relationships you have with your current clients. Acknowledge and thank your clients for giving you referrals by sending a personal thank you note even before you sign a new customer. Acting on the front end shows your clients that you value their help whether or not you gain new contracts. When you do find success with referrals, send another thank you note or a gift basket to show your appreciation.
Use your subagents. If you have subagents in your channel, take the time to provide them with special training on what to look for in a referral. After all, they likely have a monetary incentive to bring in new clients and have an additional level of expertise that can bring in the exact client you’re looking for.
Be a referral source to others. Give your clients unsolicited referrals and they’ll be more likely to send referral sources your way. The ideal referral relationship is mutual and continuous. Look out for your clients and they’ll look out for you. It’s called good karma.
There’s no secret recipe for generating referrals, but without a plan of action, opportunities can slip through the cracks. Treating current customers with respect and exceeding their expectations is the bread and butter of a healthy referral cycle. As you venture into new conversations, emphasize value over numbers, and people over sales. Be a strong referral partner for your all of your clients and always pay it forward.
Melinda Curran is the founder and CEO of RCG, a single-source telecom provider based in Franklin, Tennessee, providing all aspects of voice, data and mobility solutions with superior customer service to businesses across the country.
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