In my conversations with entrepreneurs, I keep hearing the same thing over and over about selling. It’s a myth I think it’s high time we debunk.
It’s some version of this:
“My sales cycle is based entirely on other people referring potential clients to me. I need to develop a marketing strategy that will change this.”
“My clients all come to me through referrals, so I really need to start doing some real marketing.”
It’s the idea that getting clients through referrals isn’t a good enough way to get clients. And it’s a myth.
In fact, it’s the most pervasive myths about getting new clients. You know why?
Because referrals aren’t sexy.
They’re not, “Get 5 new clients on Linkedin today!” or, “Get 5,000 newsletter subscribers!” sexy.
So with all the noise about sexy marketing programs, who could blame you for feeling like referrals aren’t “real marketing”?
Referrals aren’t a marketing fad, and that’s a good thing. Having a relationship with someone who knows the value you provide, knows what great work you do, and trusts you enough to recommend you to someone who might benefit from your help… this will never go out of style.
And it will always be a good way to build your business (actually the best way, but I’ll get to that in a second).
So with that, let me debunk this myth right now: It is TOTALLY OK to get your clients from referrals. It's actually OK to get ALL your clients from referrals!
Some very successful consulting and coaching practices have been built by referrals.
One of my clients has a wildly successful leadership training business, and nearly all of her clients come to her through referrals.
Referrals are actually the best way to get new clients because they come to you "warm": they’re pre-sold on your ability to deliver, and you’ve already earned their trust and credibility.
As a result, they have a much, much higher chance of closing - as high as 70% higher than cold leads.
In fact, my business is largely built on referrals, and I have a 92% win rate for new clients.
So when you say, “I shouldn’t be getting clients from referrals; I need to change this”, you might not realize that you’re essentially saying, “I need to stop getting warm leads, and start from scratch with cold leads.” Why would you want to go out and try to win a bunch of totally cold clients? ;)
What I'd say is this: yes, generating new leads from marketing activities is an important component of any entrepreneur’s marketing mix.
But you don't need to search for a ton of new clients from cold leads. With a few steps, you can focus on generating referrals, and the warm leads that can dramatically build your business.
Here are some key steps:
Get your contacts in one place, and know who your high potential referrers are. Past clients, past colleagues, vendors… so many people in your world could be referrers. A CRM is the best tool for identifying and tracking potential referrers.
Stay in touch with key relationships at regular intervals. Beyond a newsletter, personal outreach goes a long way towards building the relationship with potential referrers. A CRM can help make sure you’re staying in touch regularly, and you don’t forget about anyone.
Referrals don't happen by chance, although most entrepreneurs treat them that way. Treat referrals with the same attention you would for your other marketing channels, and make the ask! It might surprise you to know that so many people would refer you - In fact, studies show that 83% of people would offer a referral, but only 23% ask!
Don’t fall into the trap of referral-shaming: it’s totally OK to get new clients through referrals. And once you know more about the benefits of referrals, why would you want to build your business any other way?