Waiting for Referrals Will Kill Your New Business Efforts

At some point, every new business person has been presented with this situation: A prospect comes to us that heard great things about what our agency does from a previous client and they think we are a great fit for them. Unfortunately, we don’t think it’s a great fit. They could be too small of a partner, in an industry we don’t want to work in, or located in an inconvenient region of the world. Whatever the reason is that they aren’t a perfect fit, we are left with the problem of needing new business, having an “easy” win standing in front of us, but possibly taking on another client that could be more pain than they are worth. What do you do?

Whether or not you choose to work with the referral above, there is an easy solution to the dilemma. Actively seek new referrals and STOP WAITING for them to come to you. If you are trying to truly grow your agency this year, sitting back and waiting for those referrals will not lead to double-digit growth. We need to proactively build a referral machine that will generate conversations between our networks with companies that we actually want to work with. So how do we go about doing this?

Creating a true referral machine has a ton of different pieces that incorporate almost every piece of your agency. Your marketing, sales, account management, executive team, and social presence all need to be aligned in order to really build a scenario where referrals produce themselves naturally in an organic way. If you want a great book on referrals, I would recommend “The Referral Engine” by John Jantsch. While he has gone through many of the points above, the one that I believe is most applicable for my new business directors and easiest to institute immediately is the idea that “the most easily referred companies are naturally social”.

So what is “naturally social”? In the new business world, to me it means that you are creating content that invites conversation, telling stories via blogs or video, working with partners to deliver content that is of value, and most importantly, actively having conversations within your immediate and extended networks. The last part is where we tend to see people who fall off the most, reaching that extended network. We all work to build these LinkedIn networks, and then we find ourselves only really “liking” content or posts that come from those that we know the closest. Well, those folks are already the most likely to send us a referral if they come across one, right? What I want to push my new business directors to do is find specific companies that they want to work with and then utilize those extended (and less used) network contacts to generate a conversation. There’s a really simple process that you can take advantage of tomorrow to do this:

  1. Build a list of prospect companies
  1. Search each company in LinkedIn and find their most applicable contact for prospecting that is also a 2nd-degree connection.
  1. Identify your shared connection with that prospect and request a referral directly to that prospect company from your shared connection.

Seems simple right? Here’s the key part – make the referral EASY for your shared connection. Too often we either a) simply don’t ask our shared connection for a referral or b) we put the onus completely on them in terms of coming up with the reason for the referral. The idea here is that we want the referral ask to be specific, time sensitive, and pre-written for our connection. This allows them to simply forward on a message with as little work as possible for them. And because your message is time sensitive in nature, we have a built-in urgency to the request for referral.

Here’s an example:

Hi (First),

I was hoping you could help me.

You’re connected to (John Smith) of (Company) and I have some (Valuable Marketing Intelligence) that I’d like to put into their hands, and it’s a bit time sensitive. 

Since you two are connected on LinkedIn, I hoped you’d be open to introducing me today with the message below?  Feel free to edit as you desire:

 -Or- 

(First Name),

It’s been a while since we last connected – hope all is well! I thought you’d be interested in this introduction to Matt Chollet (cc’d) who has competitive market intelligence on (Company) that he wanted to ensure got into your hands today – it’s time sensitive and may impact your competitive media investments in Q3.

I’ll leave it with you both from here, hoping this is a valuable connection for you.

Best,

The essence of the above sample is the fact that all your referrer has to do is hopefully copy and paste two sentences, sign their name, and move on with their day. By making it simple like this, you take away the hurdle of creating a whole new message themselves.

By building a very simple, straightforward referral plan like this, with a straightforward referral request, we can begin to proactively create referrals around prospects that we actually want to work with.  Hopefully, this pushes us from a place of hoping and wish for referrals, to actively pursuing and engaging referrals on a daily basis that can convert the types of prospects we really want to work with.

Matt Chollet

As EVP of Agency Development, Matt works alongside agencies on a daily basis, helping them implement new business processes that help generate qualified conversations with their most sought after prospects.