As a business loan broker, tending and growing your referral network will be one of the most important aspects of your daily business. Half of your time (or more) will be spent building and nurturing your referral relationships and creating a network of trusted clients, lenders, bankers and brokers. We could easily spend a week teaching you how to build your referral network and it still may not be enough. So we have broken the process into five easy steps that will give you a jumpstart on obtaining great referrals.
1.Grab Their Attention
What do you have that your competitors do not? Whether you are featuring a new product or have important information about loan regulation changes, you should take the opportunity to announce it to your entire network. Providing your network with valuable information that they cannot get anywhere else is an important step to obtaining referrals. Interesting stories and special offers will grab their attention and make them remember you when they (or someone they know) need funding.
2. Create a List
Start by getting all of your current and past clients into a comprehensive list. Try to include as much information about each client as you can. Having things like size of firm, time in the business, professional credentials, client service model, and business ethics available to you will allow you to understand your clients’ needs better. In order to form great relationships, it is important that you and your clients get along well and have some things in common. Your list should help you to determine what attributes are important in a working relationship for you.
Your existing clients should always be your number one priority, so ask them for referrals first. Talk to them about who they are using for their accounting, manufacturing and legal advice. Lawyers, accountants and other business contacts are a great source of warm leads. If you can get their contact information, you should add it to your referral list. Take the time to organize and clean your contact list regularly. This will help you to avoid wasting time on dead leads and will also give you a chance to get to know your leads better.
3. Your First Marketing Contact
Now that you have a large list of referral sources and leads, what will your initial contact consist of? How will you relay your message? Effective marketing starts with the very first contact, whether through email, direct mail, telephone call, or in-person meetings. You should always focus this initial contact around a call to action. You may choose to send an invitation for a free consultation, an educational webinar or even a discount to a local winery. Provide them with a reason to pay attention to your marketing materials.
Let them know that you are not just a business loan broker, that you are human first. Your marketing materials should always feel welcoming and real to your clients. Even though you are running a business, you should always remember that this is a business of people and the more human you are, the more likely it is that your clients will want to do business with you.
After you have sent your initial marketing materials to your clients, the next step will be to contact your leads directly. This outreach is an important part of building the trust needed to transform leads into clients. Success comes from a disciplined and organized approach, so leave yourself some time each week for follow up calls and other outreach. If you are not comfortable making calls and speaking directly to your leads, you should consider hiring a freelancer or marketing professional to take care of this task for you.
Contacting potentials directly and scheduling time to discuss your products in detail is extremely important to the success of your referral network. You should always try to meet with clients in person and be prepared to discuss the following points:
- Your credentials, expertise and education
- The type of clients that you work with
- How you are different than other firms
- How you can help them
- What the next steps will be
You will also want to take the time to ask them questions about their growth strategy, what type of clients they serve, and what other firms they are working with. This will help you to evaluate where they fit with your business loan brokerage and how you can assist them now and in the future.
5.Recognize Referral Sources
Always make sure that you are providing your referral sources with some amount of protection. In order to maintain trust with your clients and colleagues, you should always be sure to thank them for referrals. Personally thank them for their trust in your brokerage and keep them updated on the progress of their referrals. Send a personal letter, a gift card, or a small token of appreciation and your referral sources will continue to send clients your way. To go the extra mile, you may even offer them a percentage of the commission for providing the initial referral. Whatever way you choose, make sure that you are acknowledging them and your strong appreciation.