4 simple ways to motivate your network to give you customer referrals

Photo courtesy of Flickr user spotreporting

Photo courtesy of Flickr user spotreporting

Imagine opening the door to your office this morning and having more customers than you can possibly sell to in one day.

No gut-wrenching cold calls to make. Just a long line of customers ready to hand you their money.

Sound like science fiction?

Well, that describes a typical day for Joe Girard once he figured out how to build a referral network.

If you’ve never heard of him, take a look at the Guinness Book of World Records. You’ll find him listed as the world’s greatest salesman. Over his career he sold an average of six new cars a day – by appointment only. That’s right, customers would wait up to two weeks just to come in and buy a car from him.

His secret? Girard’s Law of 250.

He discovered most people have about 250 close friends, family and business associates. So, he reasoned that gaining one customer actually creates 250 potential new customers due to word-of-mouth. Working to build positive relationships with everyone in his network created a steady stream of new and repeat customers through his social network.

That’s the power of referral marketing. Done well, it creates long term trust and affinity toward you and your business. The key to doing that successfully is to add value and be helpful to the people in your network. Here are four simple ways you can do that.

1. Make connections
Learn about peoples’ goals and passions. Then make introductions to help them expand their network of business associates or personal connections.

Why it works: You’re helping them achieve success and satisfaction. At the same time, you enhance your image as someone who is a well-connected resource.

Success tips:

  • Know what kind of people your connection would like to meet
  • Know what your connection’s business and personal goals are
  • When making the introduction, tell why each is a person the other should know

2.Make invitations
You can build rapport with someone by inviting them to an event you are hosting, attending or participating in. Just make sure the event offers a benefit to them. For example, being recognized, being entertained or meeting someone they admire.

Why it works: You keep them informed of the activities you are involved in. If you are speaking, it shows your expertise. Also, your guest has an opportunity to meet others in your network and develop new business relationships and friends.

Success tips:

  • Pay for their admission fee
  • Make sure the event provides a benefit to them
  • Allow your guest to invite guests of their own

3. Ask for advice
Most people are flattered when others seek their opinion. In the right context, asking for advice is a great way to deepen a network relationship.

Why it works: You give them an audience for sharing their expert opinions and advice on something they are passionate about. You also set the stage for follow up conversations to let them know how you are using the information.

Success tips:

  • Have a logical reason for wanting information
  • Don’t ask for advice they would ordinarily charge for
  • Let them do most of the talking

4. Volunteer
Know someone in your network who is working on a big project or assignment? Volunteer to help them out with it.

Why this works: Nothing solidifies a friendship better than collaborating with someone to help them achieve an important goal. In the end you establish trust, reliability and credibility.

Success tips:

  • Find out how much work needs to be done
  • Set expectations about how much time and resources you can give
  • Look for ways to help that are easy for you, yet are high-value to them
  • Deliver on your commitment, otherwise you’ll be seen as undependable

It’s important to contact people regularly for other reasons before you ask for a referral. Offer them something of value. When you do, it activates the Reciprocity Rule, where others feel compelled to repay, in kind, what you have provided them. In his book Influence: The Power of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini said: “We will often give back more than we have received in the name of reciprocity.”

What are some other ways you build relationships with people in your networks?

About John Gregory Olson

John creates and implements marketing strategies that help clients attract and retain profitable customers. He has more than twenty years of experience working with Fortune 500, small and midsized companies in the Manufacturing, Information Publishing, Healthcare and Nonprofit industries. Visit his blog for more insights on integrated digital marketing strategies to increase your brand awareness, your customer base and your sales. You can also connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

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