Getting and Keeping More Referrals by Jurek Leon

Ask And Ye Shall Receive
There are three key reasons that happy customers don't regularly spread positive word of mouth about businesses.

  1. They get caught up in other things and just don't think to mention it.
  2. Related to this, no-one specifically asks them so they forget to mention your company and how happy they are in dealing with you.
  3. Every time they ask you how business is you seem to be flat out so they assume that the last thing you need is more customers!

Particularly with professional businesses, this third point holds true...especially if it has taken a while to get an appointment to see you. Let people know that you have the capacity to expand your business and are always interested in gaining more clients like them. They will be shocked, assuming that more clients would just mean more stress for you. So, be careful that you are getting the right message across to your potential ambassadors.

Have a simple system in place to encourage word-of-mouth. For example, Carol McGavisk, a Cake Decorator in Broken Hill, includes a brochure and her business card in with each order. The brochure shows all the different types of products she makes, plus a bit of information about Carol and her business. If the customer is a repeat customer, she specifically asks them to pass the brochure on to someone (at the party) who shows interest. Carol says that this usually gets a very positive response from the customer and generates more business for her.

Acts of Thoughtfulness
A couple of years ago I was presenting a Customer Care course in regional Western Australia for veterinary clinics and hospitals. One of the participants, Alma Taylor of Mt. Barker Veterinary Hospital, shared how they send out a sympathy card with a handwritten message whenever they are aware of the death of a client's pet. In it they also enclose a small packet of Everlasting Seeds with the message 'In loving memory of your pet' on the side. Its small acts of thoughtfulness like this that really do make a difference.

Generating Referrals
In his book 'What Will They Franchise Next?', Jim Penman of Jim's Mowing fame at one stage was investigating the average conversion rate of mowing leads into regular customers. These are hot leads where the prospective customer phones up Jim's 13 number and asks to have their local Jim come out and do their lawns or at least give them a price on the job. In the poorest performing areas the conversion rate of leads to regular customers was 40%. In better areas it was around 60% but some of the Melbourne franchisees were converting more than 100%. He was intrigued. How could this be?

He talked with the top performers. One in particular was a franchisee in the Box Hill area of Melbourne. It turned out that not only was he converting almost all his regular leads, he was also generating a regular supply of referrals.

He would look for an extra job that might take five minutes or so. He'd notice an overgrown garden bed that needed tending or some rubbish that needed removal, and he'd just do it and tell the customer afterwards. No charge. It was simply a gesture of goodwill. Put together with a top class, reliable service and an ability to build rapport with customers, his clients were very, very happy. Happy enough to tell their friends and neighbours and the referrals flowed in.

Talk About Your Business
If you want people to talk about your business, you have to talk about it too. And that means taking every opportunity to promote your business by talking about what you do at service clubs, local chamber's of commerce, schools or whatever target groups are appropriate.

This means getting over any fears you have of speaking in public. Now, I'm a professional speaker, I love speaking in public but I know that many people are uncomfortable in this role. PLEASE take steps to get over it. Attend a public speaking course. Follow this up by joining a group such as Rostrum, Penguins or Toastmasters and attend regularly so that you can practice in a safe environment. Develop the confidence, learn the structure and practice, practice, practice. Once you have this skill it will be with you for life. It's a great asset.

Talk Kindly To Yourself
Many managers and self-employed people are most themselves. They are continually beating themselves up for the things they haven't achieved in their business and the self-talk day after day is often far too negative.

Take time out every day to reflect on what you have achieved, how far you have come, compliments that people have paid you and your staff. Bathe yourself in these for at least a few moments at the beginning and end of the day.

How can you expect other people to continually be saying good things about you and your business if you don't practice this yourself?

We all know (I hope) that the most effective way to motivate anyone is to catch them doing things right and praise them for it. Similarly, the best way to bring a positive aura around your business is to catch yourself doing things right and praise yourself, every day.

Check Your Response
What's your response when a customer, friend or business colleague says, "How's Business?"

Do you automatically have a positive response? Are you able to make them feel good for having asked the question?

If you are regularly talking positively to yourself it becomes a lot easier to put a positive slant on things for other people. It also pays to have some prepared responses so that you are not sucked in to a negative response. For example, "It's going well, but we could always do with more good customers like you."

I remember years ago at his sales seminars, American sales trainer Tom Hopkins recommending to salespeople going through a slump that when faced with the "How's business?" question they respond in an enthusiastic tone, "Unbelievable." He said when you do this you aren't lying. You haven't said whether it's unbelievably bad or unbelievably good but it sure sounds as though it's going well!

With positive word-of-mouth continually being spread about your business you will have a lot more unbelievably good days.

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