12 Ways to Strengthen Referral Relationships
The answer is not so simple. It really depends on the referral source and what he or she responds to.
But there are a number of actions you can take to build good will and credibility in your relationships, and the list below contains an array of examples. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, so you should feel free to add your own actions to it.
1. Send a thank-you card. Always a nice gesture, a handwritten thank-you card makes a great impression, especially in this age of electronic communication. Be sure to write a personalized note that mentions what you’re thanking your referral source for. SendOutCards.com and other organizations are a great resource for this.
2. Send a gift. Like a thank-you card, a gift, however small or inexpensive, creates visibility and builds credibility with your referral source. Try to find out what your referral source likes (favorite foods, hobbies, etc.), and send a gift that is personalized to her tastes.
3. Call a referral source. An occasional phone call is a good way to keep the relationship strong, if you take care to call only when it’s least likely to be an unwelcome interruption. It’s also a good idea to have a piece of news or some tidbit of information to pass along that will benefit or interest your source.
4. Offer a referral. Giving your referral source a referral is a wonderful way to build your relationship. By helping build your source’s business, you create a debt of gratitude that will encourage your source to respond in kind.
5. Display a source’s brochure. Doing a bit of sales work on behalf of a referral source can only enhance your relationship. If you have a public area for your business, offer to place your source’s materials where your clients can read them.
6. Send an article of interest. Set up a file for holding newspaper and magazine clippings that may be of interest to people you would like to be your referral sources. Sending an article, especially one that is pertinent to your source’s current business or personal circumstances, says that you are thinking about your source’s needs.
7. Arrange a one-to-one meeting. Meeting a referral source in person is an excellent opportunity to learn more about his business and interests. Prepare some questions in advance so that the conversation flows smoothly. Be ready to give an update on your business and to ask lots of questions about your source’s interests.
8. Extend an invitation. Invite a referral source to a networking event. Introducing her to other businesspeople you know gives your source an opportunity to meet others in your target market and may also provide new business opportunities.
9. Set up an activity. A recreational activity, such as a golf outing, fishing trip, concert, or play, is a great opportunity to let your referral source see a different side of you in an informal setting. The activity should be one that will give everybody time to relax, but it may also include an element of information. The one thing the people in this group will definitely have in common is you, so you’ll certainly be the focus of a good many conversations. Group activities may be social, such as a barbecue or a ball game, or they may be educational, such as a seminar or demonstration.
10. Nominate a referral source. Watch for opportunities to nominate a referral source for an award. Local service and civic organizations often present annual awards recognizing contributions to a particular cause, and local periodicals often sponsor awards contests for businesspeople. Find out what groups and interests your referral source is involved in, and check to see if there is any form of recognition associated with them.
11. Include a source in your newsletter. Even a brief mention of a referral source in your newsletter can pay dividends down the road, including the opportunity for your source to reciprocate with his newsletter.
12. Arrange a speaking engagement. Help your referral source get in front of a group that would be interested in her business or area of expertise. Local chapters of service organizations, such as Rotary and Kiwanis, are always looking for good speakers. If you belong to a group that invites people to speak, use your contacts to help your source make the rounds among various chapters.
Give some thought to which of the above techniques would work for your business. Have you incorporated some that aren’t listed above? I’d love to have you share them here.
Called the "father of modern networking" by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. His newest book, Networking Like a Pro, was a #1 bestseller on Amazon.com. He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI, the world's largest business networking organization. Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute, an international referral training company. You can view more of Dr. Misner’s writing by visiting his blog at: www.BusinessNetworking.com.
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