Yesterday I had an interesting discussion with the partner of a very high end graphic design firm. During the course of our brief conversation I asked her about how they generate business. The really interesting part about the graphic design firm's clients is their list of predominately high end clients. The person I was interviewing indicated they generate a good portion of new business as a result of referrals. This simple notion was a catalyst for my own insight into the referral process.
"What others say about you and your product, service, or business is at least 1,000 times more convincing than what you say, even if you are 2,000 times more eloquent."
- Dan Kennedy
You Need to Ask Before You Can Receive
The best way to get a referral is by asking for one. Yet, it's very common for business owners to be hesitant about asking for referrals. For all my years of business, I can't think of one client who referred me business without asking for a referral. Don't be afraid to ask. My father always told me, "The worst they can do is say, No." Nobody will every think any less of you.
Go for the Cream of the Crop
All referrals are not created equal. I believe that any referrals you have an opportunity to approach have value. At the same time, I would argue that the more prestigious the client the better the referral. If you have a product or service that you're confident works well, why not position try to position it as high as possible? Some of my biggest business breaks came as a result of aligning my best services with very reputable clients. Look back a few years, I cannot think of a particularly good reason why any business should look to set the client bar as high as possible from the start. If you have high end clients, chances are you are going to get high end referrals.
Eliminating Client Problems with High End Referrals
An important part of the business process is choosing the right clients. Many businesses fall into the trap of taking on new business for financial gain. At the same time, don't forget to consider all aspects of taking on a new client. It is very tempting to take a job that will pay nicely. Focus on the relationship aspects first, then the money part afterward. Aaron Wall of SeoBook.com gave me some great advice during a telephone interview a few months ago. You can eliminate 95% of your client problems by selecting the right clients. Only do business with the people who are going to be a good fit for your product or services. The right clients shouldn't squabble about your price or second guess your methodology. The best thing you can do for your business is find clients that are a good fit.
Next time you think about a new client, take a few moments to consider the type of referrals they might be able to provide. Referrals are one of the best ways to generate new business. If you can get any referrals from your clients, at least get a testimonial.
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