When Peregrine Associates started way back in 1987, we didn’t have an instant list of clients – wouldn’t that have been nice! We had to find a way to build a customer base, but how? Through friends, family and even past employers – another reason why it’s important not to burn your bridges as you go through life.
I grabbed a stack of 3×5 cards (remember them?) and wrote down everyone I could think of…EVERYONE!
- Friends and Family: I would call each one and tell them about the new company and what services we offered. Then asked them if they knew of anyone that would be interested in what Peregrine Associates provided? I would write down each referral’s name on the original card and also created a new one. This way, I could see where the referrals were coming from. Then I would make the phone call jotting down any specific notes that were important.
- Previous Employers: Under each name, I would write the specific services we could offer that would be unique to them. Trying to stand out from anyone else they may already be using and coming up with new ideas that they haven’t yet tried. Then the phone calls were made. And if you left on good terms, many of the old bosses always had time to listen and even set up an in-person visit.
The big thing to remember, back then, there was no such thing as email. You had to make a phone call. Yea, you actually had to pick up the phone, dial and talk to someone. No electronic communications, emails, texting, Facebooking, private messaging. Actual one-on-one conversations. And in today’s world, that could definitely make a difference!
Don’t be afraid to ask everyone you know for a referral. Just don’t be pushy. And if you already have a nice customer base, reach out to them. Many would be happy to send you to their friends, family and business associates. Folks are much more comfortable working with someone they know or who was referred to them. Some studies even show that your closing rate could be as high as 1 for every 2 referrals while using other means could be as low as 1 in every 25 or even more!
One last note. When I started, I had at least 25-30 3×5 cards…so my first phone calls were to family and the closest of friends. That helped me get past tripping over my own tongue. And, as brutal as they were, the feedback I got from them was invaluable.
Whether you use good old fashion paper and pencil or a fancy Contact Management application, don’t be afraid to Ask for Referrals!