To serve the clientele that we want to help with their aging in place needs – whether there are specific requirements other than aging concerns or not – we have to find out who they are and then engage them. This is a multi-stage process of learning who people are require or could benefit from our services, helping them know what is available from companies like us, having a conversation with them to discuss what we can do to help them, meeting with them in their home to see how we can implement improvements for them, and then to actually strike an agreement with them to get started and complete the changes that they desire.
Notice that this all begins with the initial contact. That can come to us in many forms. We can have an optimized website that people find when they do an online search for products or services that we provide. They can find us on social media. We can run an in their local newspaper. We can include them in a direct mail campaign so that they receive a piece of mail from us (and probably more than one). We can meet them in public or at an event and introduce ourselves to them and share contact information to continue the conversation later. We can be referred to them by a friend, neighbor, or relative that we had completed work for – or by a professional we know that tells them about us.
After that initial conversation, we can cultivate and develop the relationship over time to the point that the potential client respects us and has confidence in how we can help them. Building trust is an important part of a successful working relationship. Eventually, it may lead to a sale where we are formally engaged to help the client in the scope and price agreed upon for what they need or can afford.
Before we get to that point though, we have to meet the people we can help. Each of us has a favorite way of doing that or a way that seems to be more productive or cost-efficient than others. Some people like to meet people in public settings and strike up a conversation with them – eventually leading to the point where business can be discussed. Even when the people we are meeting are not candidates for what we offer because many will not be, they can tell us about or refer us to someone who might need what we can provide.
Ads work great for some people, and many are fond of direct mail. The issue with both is not so much the cost of production and execution but that they are passive. We have to wait until we hear from someone who saw the ad or got the mailing before we know who might be a good candidate for what we offer. It could be days from the time the ad runs or the mailing is sent before we hear from anyone. Until that happens it’s as if nothing was sent because we have nothing to show for our efforts. We can’t reach out and contact anyone either to answer their questions or set an appointment for them because we don’t know who they are yet. We don’t know who received it. We just have to be patient and wait.
This is why many people like the referral. It is unquestionably the most effective, least expensive form of generating a quality lead. There are other methods with low or no cost (personal contact or social media, for instance), but they are not as effective as the referral. However, referrals don’t just materialize just because we want them to. Sometimes, people will contact us and express that a neighbor, friend, or relative had done business with us or heard about us and they are now reaching out to us to discuss what we can do for them. This is the voluntary referral.
Then, there is the requested referral. This is where we specifically and unabashedly ask for the name of someone we can contact to explore their needs and suggest how we might be able to help them. This is a disguised request but an open one. This can happen in a couple of ways, but the tactic is the same in either situation.
In the first case, we would ask a client, at the conclusion of the work we have been doing with them (or at any other time during the project), who they know that might like to have us talk with them or who could benefit from the type of work we provide. After all, they have first-hand knowledge of the type of work we do and how we meet their needs.
In the second way of requesting referrals, we ask our friends, neighbors, fellow club members, associates, strategic partners, or past clients who they might know that we could talk with about our services.
This is where the guiding principle applies. Because we may not be comfortable yet in asking for names and the fact that we would prefer several names rather than just one or two, we ask an open-ended question that generally fails. We ask people who they know rather than to share with us one-name of someone they think we should contact. When we get that one-name, we can ask later for another one. The easiest response to the question of who they know is generally no one. Asking for a specific favor in the form of a single name often works much better.