Are You Too Busy For Referrals?

Posted by David Chism | Tue, Jul 15, 2014

 Are You Too Busy For Referrals?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

About David Chism

David Chism started his business out of a passion for helping small contracting businesses grow, be more profitable and become better known to their target clients. One lifelong hobby of David is using techie gadgets. So this blog is a place where he writes about technology, marketing ideas, just for fun (humor), personal thoughts on small business and more.


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