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Get on the business merry-go-round

Company bosses can bolster the number of referrals their business receives by recommending people to employ the services of another firm with similar clientele, according to Mary Flaherty.

The director of content strategy and development at US-based internet-only business consultancy firm said that business heads should make the other firm aware of the recommendation, making it clear that they would appreciate a reciprocation.

She added: “Many sellers are uncomfortable asking for referrals. They either don’t want to appear ‘salesy’ or don’t want to appear desperate for the work.”

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Creating a referral programme with complementary businesses to exchange referrals could contribute in attracting quality referrals, according to Ms Flaherty, adding that company heads should only list firms that they would be comfortable recommending to their best friend.

In addition, thanking referrers by telephone call, email or preferably a handwritten note could result in even more referrals, Ms Flaherty said.

She added: “If you have clients who don’t refer, create another way for them to recommend you – for example, a case study or testimonial. I once worked for a large organisation that prohibited written testimonials and discouraged referrals; however, I was able to provide recommendations by phone for vendors with which I worked. Two vendors I worked with took advantage of this opportunity and closed several deals by having to select high-value prospects to speak with me.”

Firms should also consider creating a programme for existing clients in which they receive a reward or recognition for the new business they refer, according to Ms Flaherty.

Companies can also enhance their chances of receiving recommendations by optimising their online presence.

This involves engaging with the firm’s social media audience to promote the business, such as by being helpful to individuals on online forums.

Ms Flaherty said: “Make sure your current clients know about all the products and services you offer, and how you can help so they can either refer within their company or to others they know. Too often sellers assume their clients know more about them than they really do.

“If you’re a market research firm and a client uses only your online survey research services, for example, make sure they know about your intercept interview service or focus group capabilities.”

She added: “Be referrable. Focus on your ideal clients. Tap into your networks in a proactive way. By putting a referral system into place now, you are more likely to receive quality referrals throughout the year.”

Adviser view

Matthew Smith, managing director at London-based Buckingham Gate Chartered Financial Planners, said: “You commonly get people referring clients to their accountants, for example, but not to other advisory practices.

“If you are not in the position to offer a certain type of advice, I can’t see why you shouldn’t refer that client to another advisory firm. We are a fairly multi-disciplined practice. We only refer people to other businesses when the client has niche needs.