This is the final part in a series titled ‘5 Ways Integrators Can Charge More for Their Services‘. In the last post we discussed the importance of adding recurring revenue to your business. In this final post we will discuss the importance of building your referral pipeline.
Referrals remind me a lot of that last piece of pie in the middle of a crowded table. You know… the one everyone wants, but they’re all afraid to ask for? It’s a truth I’ve rarely seen disproven, and one I’ve been guilty of many times. The long, hard slog is over, the project is complete, and the client is happy. You know this particular client could be a great source to tap for referral business. But instead of simply asking you say nothing. You figure if they were happy with your services they will tell their family and friends. You may be right. But then again, you may not.
Assuming your clients will pass on the word about your services unprompted is risky for two reasons:
- Not all clients understand how important referrals are in your line of work
- Even if they do understand, they may not assume that referrals are all that important to you particularly. After all you’re damn busy and doing just fine, right?
I read a great post over on Entrepreneur.com recently, with the clever title “Get More Referrals By Asking”. If it sounds simple, that’s because it is. So why then do so few of us actually do it? Is it due to a belief in modesty and quiet professionalism? Doubtful. I believe it’s more likely a lack of practice, or as Ray Silverstein puts it in the aforementioned article:
“It’s largely a matter of developing good habits… Don’t feel sheepish about asking for referrals; there’s nothing pushy or smarmy about it… Let your customers know you prize referrals, which you’ll earn by providing excellent quality products and services.”
Timing is key here. In certain cases mentioning the importance of referrals straight away might be a good way to plant the seed. In other situations, it may be more appropriate to wait until some trust has been built. But in any case, the key is not to wait too long. This calls to mind a concept Roger Dawson laid out in his book “The Secrets of Power Negotiating” called “the declining value of services”. The idea Dawson describes is that the perceived value of services rendered always declines rapidly after those services have been performed. In other words, a client will see you as a hero at the 11th hour after you pulled out all the stops to hit an insane deadline. But by the following Monday guess what? You’re just the A/V guy again. When it comes to asking for referrals, make sure you strike while the iron is hot!
Will simply asking for future referrals guarantee you anything? Of course not. But will taking small steps on a consistent basis increase your referral pipeline? You bet. And don’t limit yourself to simply asking clients. A few other ideas for building that referral pipeline:
- Ask industry partners including architects, designers, and builders
- Leave a thank you card with every client upon completion of their project letting them know how much you appreciate their business
- Make yourself visible in your community by attending various networking events
- Request clients leave a positive review on sites like Yelp, Thumbtack, and Angie’s List
Referrals are absolutely key to any integrators long term business viability. Not only do they keep the work coming when new leads dry up. But perhaps more importantly, clients sent your way via a trusted source are far more likely to instantly perceive a higher level of value in your service, allowing you to charge what you’re really worth. Which brings us full circle, and brings you one step closer to a purely value-based pricing model in your integration business.
I hope you’ve found this series helpful and informative. I welcome any comments, suggestions, or general feedback in the box below.
To your future success! Happy integrating,
Posts In This Series: