At the end of 2017 I was given the best kind of referral. Someone was looking for a trainer in Lansing, MI, and they went to their internal network to find a good one. Their national director of training said “Adam Fleming is the guy you want.” The hiring agent asked if there were any other names on the list, and was told there are not. “Adam Fleming is the guy. But before you hire him, check with E.K., and see what he says.” So he called E.K., and said, “What do you think of Adam for this type of project?” E.K. replied, “Well… Adam is my coach. If you want someone to train your group in coaching skills, then, of course, this is a good idea. Call him.”
Wow. Double referral, and the second one was from a current client who is happy with my services. Guess who got the job?
This is absolutely the kind of work we all want to get all the time. No competitive bidding, where you worry that you’ve underbid or overbid. No second guessing. Clients that are primed to be happy with what you do, because they’ve already heard from trusted sources that you are the best for the job. The freedom to do what you do the way you do it, to be yourself.
What do you do when you get this kind of referral?
First, charge what you want to be paid. You’re not even competing against other bids here. Don’t rip people off, but do ask for the price you want boldly. You’ll get it. Go do a great job.
Second, send out thank you notes. I am talking about old-school, hand-written, snail mail thank you cards. They are not the same as an email. Put a Starbucks gift card in it. The amount isn’t as important as the gesture. If you happen to know of another restaurant chain or store the person specifically likes, get them something for that place.
Here’s a tip on cards. I use a lot of them, and I know artists who make greeting cards to sell at their exhibits and fairs. Often they have one or two images that don’t sell as well, and they may be willing to liquidate some older cards, in bulk, at cost. Recently I bought over 3 dozen cards from my friend for $15. They were odd-sized and cost $0.71 to post, so most people didn’t want them. I figured that getting each card for only about 33 cents was worth the extra postage! And the artist was happy to unload his product that wasn’t selling. Find some local artists whose work you’re happy to promote, and ask them if they have greeting cards to liquidate.
Seriously, if you can’t spend a buck or ten bucks to thank someone, go work for the man. Thankfulness is a discipline you MUST cultivate.
Third, send referrals yourself. As you give, you will also receive. Is a prospective customer not quite your ideal? Refer them to a colleague who has a different specialty. Be aware of peoples’ needs, and know other professionals around you. Not long ago I heard someone say “I just bought a home in ____, Indiana.” I said, “Hey, I know an insurance guy in that town who can help you with your homeowner’s policy.” Become the hook-up source for people. My kids think I know everyone in town. Granted it’s a small town. But I want my kids to think that!
Fourth, take some time to write testimonials, and ask people for them. While asking for a testimonial, ask for a referral too. Be specific about the types of referrals you’re looking for. For example, “A decision maker at a company of 50 to 500 employees, who is about to pull the trigger on a large organizational change management process and wants to know if his or her company can actually sustain the changes once they’re implemented” is perfect for me today. From what I can tell, if your colleagues are only going to write a testimonial on one site, I’d advise that you ask them to do it on LinkedIn.
If you do good work, you can get these kinds of referrals. If you’d like these kind of referrals, it’s encouraging to know that you can cultivate them! To paraphrase from Field of Dreams, “If you build a referral network, clients will come.”
Image: Adam G. Fleming (left) with co-author Justin Fike.