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Cultivating B2B Customer Referrals

7975205041_7a5e4b65ff_mA recent Small Business Trends study found 85% of small businesses receive customers from word of mouth referrals. This doesn’t mean the process doesn’t require tact, however. It involves trust, relationship building, and awareness. Are you using this strategic line of marketing to the fullest? Here are six ways to shorten your sales cycle and not squander a golden opportunity for generating more business.

Ask at the Right Moment
The first step is to capitalize on peak moments in the B2B relationship. If the process has been going well, be on the lookout for positive moments. For example, the payment period is a built in opportunity to ask for customer referrals if, in fact, you felt that your client was provided excellent service. Don’t hesitate or be afraid to ask for referrals during these times, remember people like to help others. A referral is a perfect opportunity to do just that.

Be Specific
Guerilla Marketing authors suggest that when asking satisfied customers to refer someone, you need to “narrow the universe.” In other words, limit their selection to a particular group. This increases the probability a customer will have a contact in mind. It also serves as a way for your company to be in their thoughts the next time they have a relevant meeting.

Feedback
Another powerful strategy is requesting feedback and testimonials, both written and verbal. Measuring satisfaction lets you improve your product or service and offers yet another opportunity to seek referrals. It’s also a great way to remind the customer that they had a positive experience with your company, creating another peak opportunity.

It’s a Two Way Relationship
In a B2B relationship, find ways to reward customers by returning the favor. This may mean featuring the company on your webpage, or granting them special status at an event. Try to be sincere, not only in regards to quality of service, but with referrals and promotional materials as well.

Stay in Touch
Even a positive B2B experience can wear off fast after the initial exchange has ended. Although small gifts are helpful, non-monetary recognition can do wonders for a business relationship as well. Be open about the process as you move forward. When emailing or starting a relationship with a new business, be sure to keep the original referee in the loop. This lets your advocate know you appreciate the lead and allows them to feel valued.

Soften the Pitch
Always have in mind your competitive advantage. Remember, however, that word of mouth referrals are not cold. When initiating a referral B2B relationship, you don’t have to full force pitch your product, but can ease into the sale.

Customer referrals can be the most affordable marketing tool for your company, so why have any excuse to lose these valuable contacts? Don’t hesitate to ask for these referrals at the right moments and be open about your referral process. Having a thoughtful, well strategized system can create a funnel of high quality leads for your business.

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About The Author
Jordan_HooverJordan Hoover is a Dallas native returned home. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. from Loyola Marymount University. He of course loves writing, reading, playing music, and learning new things everyday. Connect with him over LinkedIn, at www.linkedin.com/in/jordanhoover

Top photo courtesy of Chris Potter @Flickr CC.