For business development folks, we are always happy at the end of the month! Why? The end of the month means we get the final tally of our month and figure out how productive we were by seeing what we earned. And if we did exceedingly well, then we get our bonus (well, for some people anyway). For me, that would mean, taking a night out of the town, relax, unwind, and then lock back in and get ready to make more money.
Having said that, some months, we don’t do as well as we hoped for and miss out on the bonus. The next few days and nights are spent wondering what went wrong. Thinking about what I could of done, and what I can do to avoid the same situation next month end.
The good news, the solution is simple: networking and using your referrals!
[blockquote]networking, and using your referrals[/blockquote]
I know what you are saying, “Edwin, this is nothing new to me”, and you would be right. Networking is not new, and in fact, it is one of the oldest way of doing business development. But sometimes, when you have a good pipeline, sitting on a good account, or happy taking inbound calls. It happens to any good sales professional, we get comfortable and complacent. We forgot how to be hunger, how to hustle and get out of the building to build our network. And most importantly, to keep in touch with your network.
With that, here are a few tips as to how you can make referrals and networking work for you and your sales numbers:
1. Build a strong network by providing great service
One way to gain more customers is to earn trust of your current customers. Be sure to keep your focus on them, provide great service, and in turn, they would be more than happy to recommend you to others. So, be sure that you not only believe in your product and service, but that you handle all your conversations open and honest.
Upset and irate customers are also an opportunity to prove yourself in the customers eyes. Listening to them and hearing their dissatisfaction gives you a chance to go back to your team and fix the issues. As soon as the issue is resolved, your customer will be happy to hand over your business card to someone else. This is where the referrals step in.
2. Do not be afraid to ask for referrals
When you have made a good impression on your customers, do not hesitate to say that you are looking for more business. You need not be explicit about it, but you can ask simple questions such as “would you know anyone else who would be needing similar services?”
If impressed by your services, your customers would be more than willing to offer contact information of people who they know are looking for your type of service. If not that, then they would say token statements such as “I believe so. Give me a card and I’ll give it to them.” Though this does not sound as promising, some still are able to push through.
3. Keep networking strong by staying in touch
Some believe that once a sales conversation is closed, the relationship is maintained by the service delivery team. However, you have to keep your network alive, and to do this you should keep in touch. On a monthly basis, call your customers up and ask them if things are going well. If they need help, offer it. This will keep you on their minds, and that would help them remember you first when they need an additional service.
BONUS: Do remember that networking happens both ways
If you have friends who offer services similar (but not the same as) yours, then refer customers to them as well. Getting and giving referrals is one of the cheapest and most effective ways of getting customers, as these are people who are confirmed to need your service already. It is easier to close a referral than it is to close a person who you got off a purchased list of leads. If you handle your network well, you may not even need to go the route of buying leads off of advertising companies.
Image credit: David Goehring