Get Referrals PhotoOne of the keys to growing your business is getting good referrals. Even though you attend many events and have developed a huge network of contacts, you find that you are not getting your fair share of good referrals from your contacts. I have included three keys to getting your “better than fair” share of referrals.

1) Focus On Problems
It’s easy to tell people about the services we provide. Instead, we are better served to talk about the types of problems that we solve. Our potential clients and those who would refer them know their problems, but they may not realize that our services represent the solution. For example, if you are experiencing unexplained leaks around the outside of your house, you may not realize that a roofing contractor would address downspouts, gutters, and flashing to fix that type of problem. But, you would certainly know that you have leaks around the house. So, if you said “Please let me know if you know someone who needs a roofer,” you might not get that referral.  Instead, we could say “We solve the problem of unexplained water entering our clients’ homes whether it is coming from the roof, the ground, or anywhere in between. Our clients also come to us to find solutions to their crazy gas and electric bills to help improve their home’s efficiency.”As another example, instead of saying “we are a full service accounting firm” you might share that “before we started working with one of our recent clients, they had been paying tax penalties. The senior executives feared whether or not they were in regulatory compliance, and they had little confidence in their financial reporting. Within 90 days we took responsibility, established a consistent process, and now their executives rest easy that everything is under control.” When you focus on the problems you solve, it is easier for prospects and referrers to identify why they would call you.

2) Be a Specialist
We all have either referred or been referred to a physician, professional, or other vendor.  When was the last time you heard someone refer to someone as “a great generalist?”  Rather, we like to know that someone is great at doing something specific. We must carve our niche, and emphasize that expertise to our clients and referrers. Even if our organization has amazing breadth, we get rewarded for being specific. Fact is that if we say that we do everything, they are not likely to believe us. We should be clear about the things we do better than the average bear, and seek opportunities where we can differentiate ourselves.If we can share stories of specific problems that we solved for real customers, then it makes it easy for someone to make that connection. It’s easy in that case for them to say “I know that they solved XYZ for one of their clients.” Law firms often struggle with this notion of specialization. As an example, a patent attorney at a large regional law firm could say “I help technology companies ensure that their inventions are protected and that others cannot interfere with their business (and share a real-world story). As you know, I have partners skilled in solving a wide array of legal and business challenges, and if you refer someone where we are not the best fit, I’ll be sure to let you know.”

I often hear people say “if you know someone who needs XYZ service, please let me know.” How often do you think that person gets referrals? They have two chances:  slim and none.  SMART is an acronym that stands forSpecific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.  So, you might try something like “Do you think you could identify two clients in the next thirty days who are experiencing the problem we discussed? When you think of them, I would appreciate it if you could send an introductory email or setup a lunch for us to see if there is a fit.” In this example, we are specific with a measurableattainable, and realistic goal that is tied to a specific timeframe. You’d be amazed at the dramatic change this can have.

Don’t feel like you have to make the identical request to each potential referrer. Based on their sphere of influence, you might have different requests for each person in your network. And, if you happen to have a breadth of problems you solve, feel free to “specialize” in areas that fit that member of your network.  So, if you want to earn your “better than fair share” of referrals, remember to 1) Focus on Problems, 2) Be Specific, and 3) Be SMART.

What tools and techniques do you use to increase your referrals?