Module 6: Launching & Managing Your Referral Machine
By the time that you are getting your referral engine off of the ground, you should have a solid idea of which members of your professional network represent your best sources for high-quality referrals.
You have met with your colleagues to create and manage a referral expectation, and know that your contacts understand what to look for and how to refer other professionals to your organization. Now it is time to ensure that your referral engine is generating the kind of new business that you had hoped for and to make improvements and adjustments as necessary.
Once you begin seeing some new referrals coming in, it is important to keep track of both the quantity and quality of your results so that you get an accurate picture of how your program is working and identify opportunities for improvement. If you are dealing with a high volume of business, CRM programs like ACT and SalesForce make managing your referrals easier than ever.
Using some formal metrics to measure how many new referrals you have coming in and whether they are appropriate for your business is the most effective way to stay informed on whether your new referral development strategy is paying off. These records can also help you stay on top of following up with your referral strategies so that you remember to keep your network informed on how their efforts are paying off.
Once your referral engine is up and running, you can grease the wheels by providing your referral sources with different types of incentives for keeping your name in circulation amongst their own professional networks. Depending on your line of work and the social environment of your industry, the incentives that you offer for top-notch referrals can vary from discounts and cash prizes to annual dinners or donations to a local nonprofit organization. If you are trying to generate buzz in a particular office where you have a contact that has been kind enough to give you a couple of good referrals, sending a thank you basket or bouquet to their office is one great way to get the attention of their coworkers.
After you have a steady stream of qualified referrals coming in, you can start fine tuning your referral engine by making it even easier for your associates to identify referral opportunities. If you have a particularly close relationship with some influential players in your industry, you might consider sitting down with them with a list of the top potential clients that you could use a referral for.
Although your contacts will probably only have access to a couple of the targets on your list, getting your foot in the door at just one or two of these agencies could be all that you need in order to take your network to a whole new level.
In many cases, you can also provide your referral network with useful materials that will make it easy to recommend their colleagues to your professional services. Instead of handing out business cards or relying on a verbal referral, you might consider giving your top referrers some tips on giving written referrals in the form of a letter or email.