The Power of Client Referral
As an Independent Contractor you probably already know that there is no better marketing tool than a client referral. The referral is so powerful at generating new contracts because it’s a validation of your value. After a solid referral is given, your relationship with the potential client is already half-formed and in some cases the engagement is half-sold. For many contractors, referrals usually lead to quality clients and rewarding engagements.
In a field where termination is inevitable with each project (contact) you take on, confidence is a must. Few things help to build and maintain confidence better than knowing your clients have referred you to others who can benefit from your services. Even if new business is not generated by a referral, it is still a valuable confidence builder. Self-confidence improves performance, which leads to more referrals. So why not start this positive cycle as soon as possible?
We have all referred someone to a friend or colleague at some point. In most cases we go further than just giving a name and contract details. It’s human nature to want to take things a step further and sell the referral. We take pride in people knowing that we found the right solution for an issue and that they should have confidence in doing the same. In short, the potential client should already be pre-sold on your ability to get the job done. Stay within yourself and there is a high probability of a new client.
Companies usually seek referrals when faced with the most serious of problems. The best hiring managers recognize the great value that comes from a referral. The result of a referral can lead to more interesting and rewarding projects.
Below are five tips for helping to generate client referrals to grow your contracting business.
1. Prove Your Value First – There are independent contractors who ask for a referral shortly after taking on a project with a new client. At IProfessional, we recommend that both new contractors and veterans prove their value to the client before asking for their positive referral. Impress the client first by allowing your skills and personality traits to develop the trust and value needed to create an effective recommendation. After providing a solid product or service, the client will feel more comfortable “selling” you to a friend or colleague.
2. When is the Best Time to Ask? – Like most things, timing is key. We all know that asking for a favor at the wrong time greatly decreases the chance of your request being accepted. Asking for a recommendation when handing the client a bill is never a good idea. Another example of an ill-advised moment would be when the project is behind schedule or a recent problem has popped up.
A great time to ask would be if the client comments on how pleased they are with your services or how well the project is going. Find a positive point during the project to ask and make sure to ask face-to-face. There may never seem to be a “best time,” but one thing is for sure, if you don’t ask you’ll rarely receive.
3. You Need a Message - To receive successful referrals, you must equip your clients with the information you want them to communicate. When referring you, the client is acting as your representative. The first contact with a potential client is not always under your control, but you can help shape the conversation. Make sure your client knows all the services you’re capable of providing. In most cases you possess skills that are not being used during your current engagement. Provide a list of your talents that other companies should know about. Also, come up with a focused message that best describes you. Be sure this message is made available to your client.
Make it easy for your client to understand what you’re asking for. When asking for a referral be direct and confident. Let them know that referrals help you build your business and that you would appreciate their help.
4. Recommend Them First – Whether it’s before or after you ask your client for a referral, why not recommend them first? By giving a good recommendation for your client it can act as an incentive or reminder to return the favor. Share contacts from your network if you think they can benefit the client, or simply leave a recommendation on a social media site. Recommend them on LinkedIn, tweet about the client on Twitter, “Like” them on Facebook, or post something positive about the client on an appropriate message board.
5. Acknowledge a Referral – Make sure to acknowledge every referral you get. Put a system in place to do this. Sure, you’ll want to thank the person over the phone or through email, but why not go the extra step and send them a thank you card? If the referral ends with you landing a contract, maybe you’ll want to throw in a gift card as well. Whatever you do, make sure they know that you didn’t take their recommendation for granted.