Creating a Killer Referral System
Making sure your clients can bring customers to your front door
- By Bob Maunsell
- Jan 01, 2012
One of the quickest ways to double your security business and get
better quality clientele is to have systems in place that put your
clients to work for you—systems that generate referrals. If you
are not actively encouraging referrals, then you are choosing to
ignore one of the most cost-effective, results-producing, new business-generating
There are many tools and techniques you can use to generate referrals: a
referral tracking form, a telephone script, a referral request letter, thank you
cards or gifts, a client newsletter with referral-producing pieces, promotional
items, a referral contest or a combination of any of these.
But before committing resources to generating referrals, you need to ask
yourself a few questions: “Do I have a security business that is worthy of receiving
referrals? Just how good are my security company’s products and services?
Do I constantly ‘wow’ the pants off my clients or is my service just okay?”
If you want to have people refer you, you’ve got to really “wow” them!
The Happy Client Experience
There are three types of clients you can create in your security company:
- Unhappy clients who got less than they expected.
- Satisfied clients who got exactly what they expected.
- Happy clients who got more than they expected. (Hint: These are the clients
you want!) If you want clients who refer you, you’ve got to make sure
you do everything possible to have every client go from just a satisfied client
to a happy, loyal client. Because if they are not impressed enough with
your security services that they’d want to use you again, then they certainly
aren’t going to want to refer you to other people.
Dan Sullivan, founder of Toronto-based The Strategic Coach Inc., has
identified four habits he calls the “Refer-ability Habits.” He writes that in order
for you to have a business that generates referrals and for you to be the type of
person a client would want to refer, you need to follow these four simple, but
- Show up on time.
- Finish what you start.
- Do what you say you’re going to do.
- Say “please” and “thank you.”
No matter how good your security products or services are, no matter how
great your technicians and staff are, no matter how honest you are, no matter
how highly skilled and trained you are, if you break just one of these Referability Habits, you have dropped the ball. When you break one, you’re saying to your clients
and to your employees and to everyone you associate with that you don’t respect them and
that you’re not dependable.
The bottom line is this: If you don’t show people respect and dependability, they’re not going
to refer you!
The Referral Process
Implement a number of simple but effective processes into your daily routine; for example:
- Send clients pre-confirmation letters before the job by mail or e-mail.
- Educate clients with a complimentary client newsletter, or a consumer awareness guide or
other educational literature.
- Do a security inspection or evaluation presentation for the client that discovers their security
needs and conveys the value you will be delivering to address those needs.
- Be attentive and “present” when communicating with a client—turn your cell phone off.
- Share testimonials and other evidence of success to help build trust.
At the end of the job or sale—after you’ve educated your clients and you’ve provided a great
product/service and they’re happy with it—is the perfect time to ask for a referral.
Educate your clients as to why they should give you referrals. If you don’t ask them and let
them know the way you build your business is through referrals, don’t expect them to really
think about it for you. You’ve got to plant a seed in their mind.
This can be done through something as easy as a referral-tracking form that educates clients
about your referral system and gives them an opportunity to list friends or family who
may be in need of your company’s security services.
The form also could be sent as an e-mail message to clients that can be easily forwarded
Be sure to follow up with all newly referred prospects promptly. Any time you are given the
name and contact information of someone who may be interested in your security products
or services, it’s your responsibility to turn that referral into a sale.
Offer a Referral Reward
You need to thank and reward those who refer you. Imagine what would happen if you not
only started going out of your way to thank clients for sending you business, but you also
started rewarding them with gifts or perks. (Thanking and rewarding your employees works
very well, too, so don’t forget to thank those who come back with a completed referral tracking
form and reward them for any new business attained by the form.)
To thank a client for his or her referral, you should send out a handwritten thank you card.
Nothing says thank you more than a handwritten note. It means that you personally took the
time to sit down and express your gratitude.
Gifting your clients for each referral that turns into a sale also is important. One gift idea
you should consider is rewarding clients with cash. It’s much more cost-effective to give small
cash rewards for a referral than to pay for expensive advertising or other forms of promotion.
As an alternative to cash, you could give a bonus, such as free additional services or a gift
card to a chain store that everyone likes, such as Target, Walmart, Kohl’s, or a gift certificate to
a local restaurant or movie theatre.
Client Champions Are Your Business’s Goldmine
Go out of your way to identify the people in your client list that refer you most often and treat
those people with great care. They are your unpaid sales force and often can outperform your
paid sales force.
You can maximize the enthusiasm of your happiest referring champions through special
recognition and events. You can give public thanks to champions in your client newsletter or
post it in your lobby. You can have Client Appreciation Dinners and invite your champions
for a free meal.
You can have a referral contest, with each referral leading to a ticket in a drawing for some
big prize—a dinner for two at an upscale restaurant, a weekend getaway or a cruise. The great
thing about this is that it can easily be done through your client newsletter.
So start making your security business a smashing success by implementing the simple
referral-generating strategies I’ve shared with you, and don’t forget a key ingredient for referral
rainmaking: wowing your clients!
This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of Security Today.