To Get Referrals, Eliminate Clients’ Hidden Agendas
Here's an interesting story (and it's all true, except for the names) that illustrates the importance of relationships to your business. Dave, a wealth management advisor, and his wife Diane, just remodeled a seaside house using a local builder/contractor (whom we'll call Al). They saw Al regularly, almost every weekend, when they went to their second home to see the progress of the job. A few weeks ago, Al was there to meet them. He was dressed not in his work clothes, but in professional attire. He asked Dave and his wife if they had some time to talk, and they all went inside.
Al thanked them for their business, and proceeded to ask them some questions, including: Are you happy with the job we did? What could we have done better? Come to think of it, Dave did have one thing on his mind -- some furniture that was supposed to be moved into a storage pod during the renovation had not been, due to bad weather, so it got dirty. This wasn't something Dave was going to bring up, but since Al asked, he did.
The furniture wasn't expensive, Dave told Al, so it wasn't a big deal. But Al said the cost of the furniture was not the point, and he arranged for every piece to be professionally cleaned.
Al told Dave that he had learned a lot from working with him, including how to better leverage energy saving rebates, which Dave had researched thoroughly. Al said he had incorporated rebate program forms into his process so that all future clients could take advantage of them. He also said he learned a lot about financing a home renovation and created a resource library for his clients to use, based on what he had learned from Dave's experience.
Dave liked Al -- entrepreneurial, graduated from a prestigious college with an architecture degree and serious about growing his business. He also liked how Al innovated in ways that were unexpected, like creating a daily blog so Dave could see photos of the renovation's progress.
And here's the most important part of the story: A few weeks after the meeting, Dave introduced Al to a friend who's doing a major home renovation. Dave would not have made that referral if Al had not initiated the relationship meeting. Why? Well, there was the little matter of the furniture that got soiled. Not a big deal...hardly worth talking about...but it was on his mind. The only way a client's dissatisfaction over "something small" can be dealt with is if you get them talking about your relationship.
To leverage referrals from your clients, you need to:
1. Surface hidden agendas: Clients who have a complaint, but are reticent to bring it up, will never refer you. It's up to you to get complaints to the surface and deal with them.
2. Handle every problem 110 percent: When a client tells you there's a problem, you have no choice but to fix it, and do so permanently. Anything less means you are committed to going out of business. So nail the problem forever. Change your practices and procedures. Train whoever needs to be trained. Put a lid on the problem and seal it tight.
3. Activate your clients into referral sources: A client who never refers business is a wasted asset. By focusing on your relationship with them and carving out time to talk about it, you can increase the value of the relationship exponentially.
4. Make sure your client can articulate what you do: If your client can't describe what you do in the way you want to be described, she isn't going to be effective on your behalf. Ask how she'd described what you do if she were talking to a friend, and coach her on how you'd like to be described.