The Referral Mastermind: Brian Buffini
Ask just about any realtor in the country if he or she has heard of Brian Buffini and you will hear a resounding YES. Brian came to the U.S. from Ireland in his early twenties to live the American dream. He became a real estate agent in San Diego. Brian quickly became a very successful and highly recognized agent not only in San Diego but also across the U.S. for his unique way of growing his business by referrals.
I used to go to the same church as Brian and worked with him on some summer side business endeavors while in high school. Brian could sell just about anything. He was such a positive and upbeat man destined for helping other realtors to succeed in the art of selling by referrals.
After a number of years of being one of the top real estate agents in the country, he moved into the consulting world, which he called Buffini & Company. He developed a complete lead generation and coaching business around the art of asking for referrals. Brian has taught thousands of realtors to use a rather simple technique to grow one’s business. You may have heard it: “I am never too busy for referrals!” You might see this quote at the bottom of an email, marketing piece, or perhaps a realtor will wrap up a conversation with those words. I’ll admit, it can seem a little cheesy and fake when I hear it, only because I know where the phrase became popular. Yet it got me thinking about my contractor friends and asked myself, “Are they ever too busy for referrals?”
Being Busy Is a Good Thing, Right?
Going on inside a business owner’s head right about now: “The phone is ringing off the hook. I’m working 70-80 hours a week. I’m selling jobs at the price I want. I am having a hard time hiring new crews to keep up with my workload. Customers seem happy with my service. Employees aren’t complaining. I am so busy. My business is growing, so life should be good right about now.” If this sounds familiar, you know you have that gut feeling that some big things are still missing. Chances are you have become so busy with the day to day operations and keeping your head above water you are perhaps missing three very important things:
- Ending a job as though it is your only job: Customers don’t care you are busy. They care about their home and their schedule only. They can tell when you are rushing at the end of a job to rush off to the next project. This will begin to create doubt and question the quality of your product if they feel you are hurrying through their project. They might start looking around for things you missed or feel you are too busy for referrals. They don’t want to recommend you to a friend and feel embarrassed if you drop the ball because of being busy.
- No follow up plan once the project is complete: This is a pretty common mistake even when you are not busy. If you don’t use and work with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program, chances are, you’ll miss this step. It is a good practice to make sure you always have a follow up plan. I know a few clients who use a system called “Send Out Cards” when they finish a project. They have it customized up front to send out personalized greeting cards for the next couple of years until a free warranty inspection can take place. No follow up means no contact with your previous customer, and this will cause your customers to begin to forget who you are or feel that you again must be busy and not need the referrals or future work.
- You are too busy to ask for a referral: This one important step might be one of the key driving factors as to why your company does not get more referrals.
Taking Action Should Not Be Painful
No matter how busy you may get this time of year, you should consider making it a practice for everyone in your company to ask for referrals. This should start at the beginning of your relationship with a customer. Tell them that most of your business comes by referrals and repeat business (if it does). Tell them you plan on giving them the best possible service start to finish. Be genuine about this! Plan on multiple ways to hug your customers (read the book) throughout the entire process: especially the end.
Finally, why is working by referrals so vitally important even though it sounds like a lot of work and a royal pain? Close to 80% of my dad’s painting business is repeat and referral work. The extra 20% of his revenue comes from things like the web, trucks, yard signs, sponsoring events and so forth. That takes a lot of time and money to produce that 20%. Also the final 20% are typically the least profitable jobs because he has to spend his resources hunting down the work and being extra competitive on pricing. So we are continually looking for ways to increase that 80% to 85% and someday 90% and more. The more you can work by referrals the less time and resources you need to spend chasing down jobs that will not make you much money.
I’d love to hear by email, on the social networks or in the comments below how you build your business by referral. What do you do now or purpose to do to keep customers happy and referring your services.