One of the most important things an entrepreneur can do to ensure significant success in their enterprise is simply to be easy to refer business to. Given that most entrepreneurs, theoretically, are in business to make money and need customers in order to achieve that goal, you would think accepting leads would be a relatively easy to master “business development” technique.
This just isn’t so.
The following tips will dramatically increase the number of referrals you get from business and personal contacts you make every day.
Know what you do for a living. Doug Richard is fairly famous for instructing people in the art of introducing themselves and their businesses. You must be able to tell people your name and the unique promise you make your customers without stumbling. If it takes people ten minutes to derive who you are and what you do for a living, you’ll find you don’t get many leads from them and the leads you do get will be for work you don’t want. If you don’t know what you want to do for a living, and can’t state it in terms of the promise you make to customers, you aren’t in business.
Example of a good introduction:
My name is Doug Richard. I own School for Startups. We teach people how to start and run better, stronger, more profitable, businesses.
Example of a bad introduction:
School for Startups is a content development company that develops media and events for entrepreneurs working in the UK and elsewhere who want to find out what they need to know in order to create new revenue streams and explore new financial opportunities as and when and to the degree they are able.
Do what you do for a living. Sometimes people start a business and they decide they have to do something they really hate to make money. So the business they say they are in is not the one they will accept leads for because they hate the business they are in. This is silly and annoying.
For example, a given entrepreneur may be an architect and that’s what they tell people when asked, but in secret they only really care about interior design. So anyone who hands off a lead for architecture to them is going to be disappointed in their follow through, as will anyone unfortunate enough to work with them.
If you are running a business you don’t actually like, think hard about how to start running a business you do like. It really is easier and more profitable to figure out who you want to work for and how to do the work you love to do than it is to figure out how to run a business you really don’t like much at all.
Accept leads quickly and professionally. If someone says “I have a friend you need to talk to”, take the name and the number of the person giving you the lead, the name and number of the contact they are giving you, and a quick summary of where the lead-giver sees the opportunity.When people are good at giving leads, they’ll send you an email or text with this information. This minimizes the possibility of lost data or misunderstanding.
When you get a lead, say “Thank you for the lead”, tell the lead-giver when you’ll follow up if you feel so inclined, then move on to talk about other things.
Whoever is giving you the lead will appreciate knowing you have all the data you need to follow up, and that will tend to preclude them from telling whoever they want you to contact to call you instead. This procedure helps you get fewer calls from people you don’t know.
Follow up on leads quickly and professionally. If someone gives you a lead that you want to follow up on, contact the target within a week of getting the lead, let them know who referred you and why, and tell them what you do for a living. If you end up working together, its nice to remember the lead-giver with a “Thank you” the next time you see them. You’ll find you get more leads if you do.
Don’t follow up on leads for business you don’t want. If someone gives you a lead you don’t want, you can let them know its not a good fit. Or, if that’s not politically correct, after you take the lead, don’t follow up. If they ask about it later say “Actually, we don’t do what they need to have done” or “Our business is a little overworked just at the moment so we’re prioritizing activities around existing resources.”
Really, you don’t have to explain more than that, even if it’s your mother that gave you the lead and the contact is her best friend. Being in business doesn’t mean you have to follow up every single lead you get.
Be good at giving leads. The best way to get leads is to give them. The best way to give a lead is to email or text the person you are giving the lead to the name, phone number, email address and quick summary of the business opportunity you see. That saves everyone time. Writing things on business cards is a poor second to direct digital transfer of necessary data. Lead exchanging is such a powerful thing that there are Meetup.com groups where that’s all people get together to do.
School for Startups teaches lots of techniques for finding information quickly online, but the fastest and best way to pick up great leads is through face to face networking. You should, as a small business owner, be going to events (or running them), at least once a week so that you have constant contact with new opportunities.
You should make sure the events you go to or run have new people every week and that each event fosters a friendly, professional, relaxed environment conducive to quick information exchange between peers.
Follow this set of guidelines and you’ll find your business is much more profitable and lead generation becomes far more straight forward.