Asking for referrals from satisfied clients and family members is a strategy that works to grow your consulting business. However, most consultants do not understand the referral process, so they often take less advantage of it. If this is your situation and you have been wondering how you can use the referral approach to benefit your consulting business, this article will serve you well.
Before taking you deeper into looking at some of the effective ways you can ask for referrals, let me explain the two kinds of referrals that consultants can use to bring in more clients for their businesses. Knowing the difference and how they happen can help you to take the most advantage of the referral approach that best suits your consulting business. Here is brief explanation of the two referral approaches.
  1. The Referrals You Initiate: This process is consciously initiated by you. It involves asking your friends, clients, and family members to recommend your services to anyone who might need them. This is the referral approach you should initiate if you are just getting started or you’re yet to have enough clients that will make your business sustainable. So, you have to consistently ask people around you and satisfied clients to recommend people you can speak with, who might need your service. Doing this on a regular basis will certainly help grow your consulting services.
  2. The Referral That Comes to You: Sometimes without initiating the process, words of mouth from satisfied customers can attract new clients to you. This comes as a low hanging fruit for you and if the bargains go well, you can quickly add the prospect to your pipeline. This referral approach is only good for established consultants who already have tight schedule. They only need occasional additions to keep the business flourishing.
The first approach is better for anyone looking to increase his or her customer base. So, if you are just starting out and you’re looking for more clients, initiating the referral process through satisfied clients, friends, and family members, is one of the sure-fire ways to increase your customer base and establish sustainable consulting services. Waiting for referrals that will come to you when you’re just starting out is not good for the success of your business. Now let’s consider some of the ways you can effectively initiate a referral process.
How to Initiate Referrals
Initiating a referral is easier and more effective compared to making a code call. But initiating referrals require initial actions on your part. As a startup or a business owner looking for more clients, you can’t just sit back and expect referrals to come in. You will have to kick-start the process yourself using some effective strategies. The following are some of the ways through which you can initiate the referral process. 
  1. Ensure you deliver beyond your client’s expectation
When your delivery surpasses clients’ expectations, then asking them for a referral won’t be a difficult task for you. Of course, if your clients are satisfied with your services, they will be more than willing to recommend you to their friends and colleagues so they too can enjoy your great services. So, always give your returning customers your best shot and watch your pipeline grow tremendously.
  1. Build a good relationship with people around you
Relationship building skill is the key to the success for any business. So, learn how to build good and healthy relationships with people around you. If you know you’re on the good book of other people around you, it will not be difficult for you to tell them what you do and make a request from them regarding who you can talk to in their networks that might need your consulting services.
  1. Take advantage of your friends and family network
Your family and friends are your best well-wishers. They are the first set of people through which you can initiate referrals. Hence, pick your phone and call them one after the other. Tell them about your new business, what you do, and who might need your help. Thus, when they come across people who need your services within their network, you will be the first person that will come to their minds. Don’t forget to always do follow-up on your friends and family members.
  1. Network with other consultants offering similar and complementary services
The power of networking with people in your industry cannot be overemphasized. In fact, if you expect to receive frequent referrals from others, don’t forget you need to refer people to them as well. There are fellow consultants, who specialize in other consulting aspects different from yours. So, when you send referrals to them on projects you can’t handle, they will also reciprocate by sending people looking for your services to you.
  1. Ask your previous employers
Your previous employers can also be your source of initiating referrals if you’re not a threat to their business. Your previous employers have worked with you and they can vouch for the quality of your service. Therefore, you can use their established contacts to initiate referrals for your business. All you need to do is to ensure your business interest is not in conflict with theirs.
Although initiating referrals might sounds as an aggressive approach to most people, it actually works like a magic. You can’t sit back and expect people to walk-in asking for your service, you need to take effective actions. As a startup consultant, you might not have the luxury of waiting for a referral to come to you. You will have to initiate the process that will bring-in more clients to your business. And initiating referrals is a good place to start before you start to incorporate other strategies. Thus, if you want to consistently attract your ideal clients, it is recommended that you apply the five tips above to initiate referrals that can bring-in more clients to fill-up your pipeline.
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