When we meet a potential customer or client and treat them well, when we actually make a sale and perform the contracted service well, or just when we engage someone we know personally, we have the opportunity to generate a referral for our business.
Referrals aren’t automatic when we do a good job, and some will come from unexpected places. Sales aren’t automatic either although they tend to happen more easily with referrals. Think of a referral as a reward for past service performed well or as an annuity that pays dividends for past good works.
Referrals come in two ways – direct and indirect – and may be voluntary, requested, or incidental.
Direct referrals are those that our satisfied clients and customers tell us in our presence – either while we are completing the work in their home or when they see us again later. They mention how satisfied they are with the work we did and that they have someone else we should talk with about helping them. As for how they convey their general satisfaction and give us permission to contact someone else, it may be spontaneous during a conversation that we are having with them, or we may have to specifically request that they provide the name or names of others we should contact and how to reach them.
Indirect referrals come in a roundabout or indirect way. Someone will contact us by phone, email, or in-person and relate how someone they know had been talking about the great work we had done for them or they happened to see the finished product themselves. It could even be that they heard from a third party.
This is what is meant by an incidental referral. It’s just as important as a directly received or requested referral, but an indirect one can come at any time and from any direction – from a current client or one where the work was done months ago.
We know that we will get a certain amount of indirect referrals because people like to talk about good service they received. However, unlike referrals that we receive directly from our clients and customers, we won’t know specifically who will be contacting us, when that might be, what they will need done, or how many people might be reaching out to us in this way.
Nevertheless, referrals are a fantastic source of new business. They typically are qualified because of their relationship with our client or customer and the fact that they wouldn’t talk with us without some degree of interest in having work done. The biggest plus is that they are free to generate. We already have done work for the source of the referral.