The Easy Way to Earn Repeat and Referral Business

Making the first sale with a customer is easy. But making the second, third or fourth? That can be tricky. Read on below to learn the easy way to start earning repeat business from your customers.

Time to focus on “Marketing R & R” not getting away from it all but really getting all into it. With every sale or engagement, savvy entrepreneurs ask: “How can I earn repeat or referral business?” The answer is easy to understand but hard to do. So, read on for “R & R” best practices.

To ask or not to ask?

Two schools of thought here. One says never ask for repeats or referrals. If your customers were pleased enough, they’d do it for you without being asked. To ask for them may even look immature, weak or annoying.  If you concur, good for you. Stop reading now, because I’m not going to try to change your mind.

I subscribe to the other approach, which says always ask because you always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. If you concur with me, then hang on for a fast ride.

Everything is earned!

Not too hard to make the first sale with a customer. What’s much harder is proving your value and living up to your brand promise enough to make the second, third or fourth sale. So, winning the second sale begins with nailing the first one:

  • Ask good questions and listen to what you hear.
  • Summarize what you think customers want so they know you listened and understood.
  • Be sure you can do what they want at a competitive, still make a fair profit and enjoy the process.
  • Under promise and over deliver.
  • Always thank them for the business at the point of sale and at the point of delivery if different.
  • Follow up on satisfaction.
  • Keep in touch … unless they ask you not to.

If you asked enough good questions up front, you should have a good sense for their needs going forward. In a separate email or phone call, ask when you can discuss other needs.

It’s usually with the same decision-maker/contact, but might involve:

  • Same product or service with a different end-user.
  • Different product or service with the same end-user.
  • Or, different product or service with a different end-user.

If you learned enough from your initial conversations, suggest some next steps to consider. Be patient, follow up when they ask you to and think, “Yes” until you hear, “No.” But don’t confuse “No” with “Not now … not ever … never!’

Internal referrals

Depending on the size of the organization, there might be other departments, divisions, locations or even subsidiaries that would benefit from your products or services. You won’t know until you ask.

If Bob, your current customer, gives you the name of colleague Sarah in a “cool” lead, you can certainly contact Sarah and follow up. “Bob gave me your name … ‘should be good enough for a few minutes of her attention. The higher Bob’s position is in the organization, the more time and professional courtesy you might get from Sarah.

“Cool” leads or pass-offs can be very useful, but “warm” leads or three-way connections are usually better. In this case, Bob offers, or you ask him, to contact Sarah on your behalf, describe your relationship, his satisfaction with you work and connect you with her. This connection can be done in person, by phone or even with an email.

In both cases, you now have two people you need to turn into raving fans, not just one.

Bob has some skin in the game, so if things don’t go well with Sarah, that could backfire and impact your future relationship with him. 

External referrals

Potentially even more valuable can be referrals to professional colleagues in other organizations. If Bob works in a small company, the internal potential may be limited or non-existent.  But, if Bob is well-connected in the local industry or community, he could refer you to lots of colleagues and become a strong extension of your marketing effort. Nice work if you can get it.

The same “cool” vs. “warm” lead concept applies. You can always start by asking for a “warm” lead and settle for a “cool” one if you need to.

Gratitude magnitude

A key tactic for a successful Referral Strategy is the magnitude of your gratitude. In the above example:

  • Start by thanking Bob for the initial business.
  • An email is good, a phone call better and a hand-written note the best. Why not do all three?  Remember to sit on the ‘ask’ for the next conversation.
  • If Bob does offer you a referral to Sarah, thank him for his help and support. 
  • After contacting Sarah, thank her for her time, even if nothing comes from it.
  • If Sarah does buy something, thank Bob for the lead when you thank her for the initial business.
  • Then, ask Sarah for repeat business as well as internal or external referrals.
  • And the beat goes on …

Sounds like a lot of time spent expressing gratitude doesn’t it. Absolutely. But, since most people don’t bother, anything you do will clearly and positively differentiate you from the pack of ungrateful amateurs you compete against.

Fini

Best of luck mastering the art of Marketing Repeats and Referrals and do share your success stories.

Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com,

440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.  


Share
  • Email
  • Next up: The GCP Submits Testimony on the Importance of Access to Capital

    The GCP Submits Testimony on the Importance of Access to Capital

    On Oct. 11th, the Ohio Senate Transportation, Commerce, and Workforce Committee received testimony from the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) regarding House Bill 10 (HB 10), legislation that would permit intrastate crowdfunding in Ohio. 

    Building capacity and improving access to capital for businesses across the state is just one of the many important undertakings outlined by our members in the GCP Public Policy Agenda.  HB 10 would allow Ohioans to invest in businesses through an online OhioInvests Portal.

    Access to capital promotes stability and greater predictability and can allow entrepreneurs to create jobs and thrive in an ever-changing environment,” said Marty McGann, Senior Vice President of GCP Government Advocacy.  “The importance of continuing to make strides to maintain an economic environment conducive to startup entrepreneurship cannot be understated and the need for Ohio not to lose ground on strides made in other states is critical to our collective success.

    This summer, approximately two weeks after the GCP provided testimony to the House, the bill cleared the Ohio House Representatives.  The GCP will continue to monitor activity in the Ohio Senate and advocate on behalf of our members.

    To read the entirety of GCP’s submission to the Ohio General Assembly on HB 10 click here.

    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: The Importance of How You Sound

    The Importance of How You Sound

    It might sound surprising to you, but mimicking the way a prospective customer speaks can help increase your appeal when trying to sell to them. Check out the areas of speaking outlined below and how some slight changes in the way you sound can help improve your customer connections.

    While people feel comfortable with other people who are like themselves, it’s also true that people feel comfortable with other people who sound like themselves. When you listen to someone speak, concentrate on the several subsets of tonality, which we are identifying as: volume, rate of speech, tone, tempo and favorite words and phrases.

    Volume

    Have you been on a sales call where you spoke loudly and your prospect spoke in a much lower voice, or vice versa? It doesn’t seem like something so trivial would matter, but it does. Put yourself in the prospect’s position. You generally speak in a very loud voice and the salesperson across from you uses a very soft voice. Does that make you feel comfortable or uncomfortable? OK or not OK? Listen carefully to the person you’re speaking to and then try to match their volume.

    Rate of speech

    What’s your rate of speech? Is it fast, slow or in between? When you’re with a prospect, do you speak at your own rate, or do you mirror the prospect’s rate of speech?  Put yourself in the prospect’s place once again: You speak slowly. You like to pick and choose your words carefully. You like to leave a little thinking time between your sentences.  But there’s this salesperson across from you and he’s speaking so fast that you can’t even think. How do you feel? What are you thinking? Are you likely to say to yourself, “I like this guy. He talks fast.” Or, might you say to yourself, “This guy is slick. I’m not sure I can trust him.” Form a better connection with the person you’re trying to sell to by matching that person’s rate of speech as closely as you can.

    Tone

    A squeaky, high-pitched tone is irritating to all but the people who use the same tone. Equally bad is a tone that’s sarcastic, all-knowing or gruff. The tone that’s most pleasing to your prospect is the one you hear your prospect using. 

    Tempo

    The rhythm of conversation, or tempo, is important too. Some people begin speaking slowly and they build up speed as they become more emotional. Others begin speaking emotionally and then wind down to a monotone, as though they’ve burned out before finishing. Pay attention to tempo and begin to mirror the tempo that you hear in conversations with your prospects.

    Favorite words and phrases

    Listen for your prospect’s favorite words and phrases and then “play them back” for your prospect. Words and phrases have special meaning to people. Listen for them, write them in your notes, and use them later in your conversation and in future meetings with your prospect or customer. 

    These are slight changes in the way you talk that can yield big results. Being aware of the differences in speech, and the preferences of your prospects, can help form a better connection with your customers.

    Tom Scully is sales consultant and owner of a Sandler Training franchise in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.


    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: The importance of our PAC as Election Day nears

    The importance of our PAC as Election Day nears

    We are about a month away from Election Day and early voting in Ohio begins on October 12. In addition to voting, there are a number of ways you can ensure your individual voice and the voice of the business community is heard throughout the political process, but no tool may be more useful than having the ability to collectively pool our resources together to provide our members with the means for concerted political action. And, the dollars contributed through the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Political Action Committee are specifically used to provide support for state and local governmental leaders campaigning for election who share your interests.

    We are about a month away from Election Day and early voting in Ohio begins on October 12. In addition to voting, there are a number of ways you can ensure your individual voice and the voice of the business community is heard throughout the political process, but no tool may be more useful than having the ability to collectively pool our resources together to provide our members with the means for concerted political action. And, the dollars contributed through the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Political Action Committee are specifically used to provide support for state and local governmental leaders campaigning for election who share your interests.

    Please consider making your contribution of $50, $100, $500, or $1,000 to GCP PAC prior to the Election Day on Tuesday, November 8, so we can continue to lead the conversation in the development of common sense economic policy and regulatory reform.  

    The decisions government officials make impact all aspects of our lives, including your ability to conduct business in Ohio and achieve success. Participation in the process is not a requirement, but it is crucial business leaders and their elected representatives take action together to support the kind of environment in which you and your business can thrive. GCP PAC is a non-partisan, unified voice for businesses of all sizes and industries in our region and aids businesses in educating key decision makers on the issues that are important to you. 

    Here’s how you can contribute.

    Online

    Use your non-corporate credit card to make a secure online donation today at:  www.gcpartnership.com/GCPPACcontribute

    By Mail

    Mail your personal check (payable to GCP PAC) to:

    Greater Cleveland Partnership
    Advocacy Department
    1240 Huron Road E
    Cleveland, OH 44115-1722
     

    Please note individuals, limited liability companies (LLCs), partnerships and sole proprietorships can legally make contributions to a PAC. Contributions must include itemized allocations by partners in partnerships or members of a LLC. Ohio law prohibits other corporate political contributions.

    Your participation in the GCP PAC is completely voluntary. Donations are not tax-deductible and will be used for political purposes. An individual may contribute up to $12,532 annually to an Ohio Political Action Committee. You may choose not to participate without fear of reprisal. You will not be favored or disadvantaged by reason of the amount of your contribution or decision not to contribute.

    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: The lowdown on Lakewood

    The lowdown on Lakewood

    Patty Ryan of the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce talks about what the city has to offer small businesses.


    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: The Medici Effect Author Shares His Insights on Innovation and Success

    The Medici Effect Author Shares His Insights on Innovation and Success

    Frans Johansson, best-selling author of The Medici Effect and The Click Moment, writes about what he is passionate about. And in writing his books, he has shattered assumptions about how great ideas happen and the idea that in business you can strategize, plan and analyze your way to success. Johansson will share his insights as the featured speaker at COSE’s next think spot event. We recently had the opportunity to ask Johansson a few questions about how he got his start, his advice for entrepreneurs and what to expect at his upcoming think spot appearance.

    Frans Johansson, best-selling author of The Medici Effect and The Click Moment, writes about what he is passionate about. And in writing his books, he has shattered assumptions about how great ideas happen and the idea that in business you can strategize, plan and analyze your way to success. Johansson will share his insights as the featured speaker at COSE’s next think spot event. We recently had the opportunity to ask Johansson a few questions about how he got his start, his advice for entrepreneurs and what to expect at his upcoming think spot appearance.

    What can the audience expect from your think spot presentation? 

    Innovation will be the underlying theme of my talk. I will focus on how we come up with a great idea and the different approaches we take in response to it – whether innovative or ordinary. Your best chance for groundbreaking innovation is at the intersection where diverse concepts, disciplines, cultures and industries collide. I’ll talk about ways you can tap into your community and your life to make unique connections that can bring about breakthroughs. 

    How important is innovative thinking for a small business owner?

    The ability to think innovatively is one of the most important characteristics of a small business owner. You should constantly be thinking about how to stand apart from everyone else. You need to find your niche and grow that niche to outdo your competitors. Approaching things differently, and innovatively, is not just the key to growth, it’s the key to survival.

    What led you to become an author?

    I was raised in Sweden by my mother who is African-American and Cherokee, and my father who is Swedish, so I have always seen things a little differently. I have a great interest in diversity and its effects and opportunities. People were always saying that diversity drives innovation, but I wondered if this was true and if so, why?  I did a lot of research and found that the power of diversity is not a myth. 

    After several innovative experiences as an entrepreneur, including as founder of an international healthcare firm, a software company, and a hedge fund, I knew how to make myself stand apart from others. I knew I could make an impact imparting knowledge on what I learned about innovation and diversity and its impact on success. 

    Tell us a bit about The Medici Effect and The Click Moment.

    My first book, The Medici Effect, is named for the phenomenon that happened in Florence hundreds of years ago when diverse concepts, cultures and disciplines intersected, leading to one of Europe’s most creative eras, the Renaissance. I started thinking about what happens if you combined architecture and termites, bikinis and burkas, and techno music and Martin Luther King. How and why are those combinations possible? You would assume that they aren’t. But out of these seemingly random combinations have come groundbreaking ideas that have created whole new industries. I discovered that the unexpected outcomes in every life journey can have the biggest impact on the fortunes of others. You can have that same effect in your organization or business if you can figure out a way to bring about diversity. 

    My next book, The Click Moment, delves into how to harness serendipity to stand apart. It’s a study of randomness and luck. I say that if a good idea is a light bulb going off over your head, a true click moment is a supernova exploding at 100 billion degrees. There is no cheat sheet for life. No one can say, “Follow these three steps and you will be successful.” Success comes in many different forms, but it virtually always comes from the unexpected. This book uncovers ways to capitalize on those unexpected moments.

    What is the best business advice you ever received?

    Stick to what you are passionate about. My father told me that about life, but it can also apply to business. When you absolutely love what you do you go to sleep thinking about it and wake up thinking about it. You obsess over how to do it better than anyone else. It’s hard enough starting a business; that passion for what it is that you do can give you strength. 

    What advice do you have for small business owners today?

    I’d say to be innovative and constantly look for intersections. You must find ways to keep your business fresh and alive and moving. The world is changing so fast now that industries are eradicated quickly and the level of competition is absolutely ferocious. You can’t just stick to the business you develop. You need to figure out how to innovate and constantly reposition yourself. Stay hungry and explore the intersection of other industries and cultures.

    See Johansson at the next COSE think spot event on June 24, 2015. 

    This article originally appeared in the June 8, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.

    Share
  • Email