If you drop the ball in some way, not only will you lose this chance for new business, but you could also discourage others from referring business to you. Therefore, you must handle these warm leads with extreme care. Here are six key steps to consider as you guide a referral into becoming a real customer.
- Respond quickly. Nothing will stop a referral process faster than slow response and showing a lack of urgency in communication. Lead360 conducted a study of 25 million data points which showed that successful conversion rates are 391% higher when a lead is called back within a minute, 120% within two minutes, 98% within three minutes, 62% in under thirty minutes, and 36% in under an hour. Clearly calling back and following up with referrals quickly is the first and most important part of the process.
- Gather information and qualify. Once contact has been made, it's time to gather any necessary information to make sure there's a good fit between what the referral is looking for and what you can provide. Having relevant, open-ended questions to ask will help you find what you're looking for while at the same time establishing your expertise in helping solve client problems. This is the time to develop insight into the scope of the opportunity and key factors.
- Be the expert. Once you've established that the referral is a good fit for your business, it's time to do your homework. You must spend a little time to learn about the referral's business. The more you learn about what your prospect is looking to solve, the better you can prepare a solution. This in turn will position you as the expert who took the time to present a customized solution when your competitors offered a generic, cookie-cutter bid.
- Make your offer stand out. The best way to make your offer stand out is by adding value. People like to buy, but they don't like to be sold to. You can add value and help your offer stand apart by helping a referral evaluate your capability and see their problem clearer. Relevant, simple, and insightful information that helps your prospect will lead them to buy much more readily than if they feel they are being sold to.
- Create a powerful experience. Turning a referral into a client can be as simple as contacting them quickly with information they're seeking. However, the real secret to make them truly want to do business with you on a consistent basis is to create a "wow" experience. Your "wow" experience doesn't have to be complex. Building it can be as simple as:
- Responding to inquiries within 30 minutes
- Offering a small gift or thank you note for contacting you
- Sending a small gift or thank you to the person who made the referral
- Delivering a professionally prepared, customized solution with clear information
- Following up after the sale to answer any questions
- Being persistent without being a pest
- Use technology. As great as your memory may be, relying on the old pen-and-paper system is just asking for trouble. The way to truly systematize the referral process is by using a CRM system that can help you track your referrals. Determine if the software will help you give the prospects the experience you set in your action plan. But remember that technology can only go so far. Sure, it can help you manage the referrals, but converting those leads into customers takes the human touch that only you can provide.
Turning referrals into customers is not an act of magic or accomplished through luck. It's done by developing an action plan and by implementing the plan. Keep track, stay organized, and monitor the process. Referral marketing can be a gift that keeps on giving, but only if it's treated with the care and respect it deserves.