When we ask integrators or installers how they get business, we’ll often get the same one-word answer: referrals. This is not a huge surprise. But what is a little surprising is that when we ask how they go about getting referrals – we often get nothing but perplexed looks.
See our advice on how to find yourself replete with rewarding referrals below…
To be fair, we do hear from custom integrators who describe very thoughtful tactics they use to encourage referrals from their clients. But more often than not, we get shoulder shrugs and blank stares from those who believe that getting a referral is a bit like hitting the lottery – great when you get one, but they are frustratingly few and far between.
But there are ways to up-the-odds of earning positive referrals from your clients and it is worth your while to make the effort. Why? Because a satisfied customer recommending your company to their friends dramatically increases the likelihood of those friends purchasing from you as they are pre-sold from the most reliable source to them…their friend.
Try these ideas to stimulate an increased flow of rewarding referrals:
- Be Referral-Worthy: Clients don’t owe you anything, beyond paying the agreed-upon amount for the work contracted in your proposal and agreement. No integrator demands a referral up front by making it part of the agreement, so a referral is above and beyond your agreement and totally up to your customer to want to provide one. To have any hope of a referral, your first tactic is to do really, really, really good work…work worthy of a referral.
- Under-Promise, Over-Deliver: A tactic that you can use to help elevate your clients’ satisfaction level is to build in an extra add-on freebie that you don’t necessarily disclose up-front, but describe and [if possible] demonstrate to the client upon final delivery of the finished installation. Perhaps it could be 5 or 10 free Blue-ray movies…or a free additional remote control for a secondary room…or a free system option upgrade. Naturally, the cost of this is built into your margin in the first place…but the client doesn’t have to know this. Basically, you surprise them with an unexpected free add-on. Unexpected pleasant surprises can really turbocharge your client’s satisfaction level. By the way, we recommend that you try to make this something tangible rather than a service upgrade, as humans tend to perceive greater significance to those things they can have and hold (and show their friends.)
- Carefully manage expectations: Many of your clients have no idea what goes into a typical residential home network and A/V entertainment installation. Make sure you go the extra mile and explain all that’s involved…including the many phases of the installation from design, to pre-wire, to equipment acquisition, to rack building, to programming, to testing, to rough-in, to final installation, to client training, etc. Don’t forget to mention the expertise and credentials (and years of education and experience) that your team brings to the table to ensure your clients are getting an installation that is the perfect solution for their needs. The result is that not only will you add perceived value to your service, but also that they will better understand…and better appreciate…the level of professionalism you have mustered to provide them with a system that they’ll use and enjoy for many years.
- Ask for the referral: It is absolutely critical that you ASK for the referral – a key step that many forget to take. Some people find this difficult to do…but it needn’t be. The time to ask is at the end of the process, when your client has been shown and taught how to use the system. If you’ve done your job, they should be amazed and thrilled with your installation. This is a great time to “close the sale” on the referral as well. But be careful with your approach – don’t demand a list of their friends’ and neighbors’ names, addresses, and phone numbers. This direct approach can be a little too in-your-face for your clients and potentially puts too much pressure on them to name names. A better approach is to find a way to relate a specific element of their installation that you can suggest may appeal to their friends as well. For example, you could say something like, “Now that you see that we were able to digitize your extensive vinyl disk collection for inclusion in your new and convenient media server system, do you know any other collectors who have a collection they may want to preserve?” Or, “Isn’t it great how we were able to discretely extend your entertainment system outdoors for your guests to enjoy during your many summer garden parties? Do you know anyone else who likes to frequently entertain guests outdoors?”
- To the proactive approach, add passive referral aids: The above is a proactive approach to obtaining a referral by directly asking clients. Often, this is enough and taps into the natural desire people have to want to help others. Also, clients seek the approval of their network of friends by encouraging them to acquire similar systems. But some clients may still be hesitant to share referrals with you. This could be because they don’t want to compromise their friends privacy by giving out their names and contact info to an unrelated third party. Or they may seek to first speak with their friends before conveying this info to you. You can dramatically improve your chances for added referrals by adding passive referral aids. In your documentation package you leave behind for your clients, make sure you include multiple sets of your company’s brochure along with several business cards. Make it easy for your clients to hand out your contact info every time one of their friends exclaims – “Wow, where can I get this too?”
- Thank your clients for ANY referral: Finally, be sure to thank your clients for any referral. You should do this immediately upon receiving the referral. Don’t wait until you see how the referral works out – thank your client immediately for going above and beyond and recommending your company. And don’t just dash off an email saying, “Thnx.” Get a thank-you card or hand write a note on your monogrammed memo pad or stationary. Make it personal – thank them for the confidence they have placed in you to properly take care of their good friend.
Sometimes, we are asked if a custom integrator should offer a “finder’s fee” or some other form of honorarium to their clients – in effect, offering to pay them for their referral. This is really a matter of a personal choice, but generally the higher end your clientele the less the necessity of an offer of monetary payment.
What about you?…What tactics do you employ to encourage referrals?…
What tactics do you employ to motivate your clients to feed you referrals? Leave a comment in the reply section below…