The Free Referral Source

November 17, 2015 || POSTED BY admin || Industry News

The Free Referral Source

By Steve Moran

We tend to think in terms of having to spend money to get leads, but there are some ways to get leads that are FRREEEE.

Yes that is right Free. . . .

Easy, Hard, Fun, Expensive

Paid referrals from direct mail, email campaigns, newspaper ads and lead generation sites like Senior Housing Forum partner Caring.com are favored by salespeople because they are relatively easy. The work is mostly done by others (agencies, internal marketing departments or 3rd party lead generation sites).

The leads from these activities just show up in the salesperson’s inbox and the sales process begins. The problem is that there are not enough of these leads and frequently you are in competition with two to a dozen other senior communities for the same lead. And they are expensive!

Free Leads

I was recently checking out an e-book written by Jeanine Aspen, co-founder and president of DEI Central, a Senior Housing Forum Partner, on referral partnerships. Her big idea is that building a solid referral network can be — maybe even should be — the single most important thing any senior living community can do to improve their lead generation process.

Here is the challenge:

You don’t start seeing serious benefit from community referral sources until you have had 5-12 contacts with that referral source.

So free is not quite free, in that it takes time. It is also tough to build these referral networks when salespeople and executive directors turnover, because the relationships are more about the people than the senior community itself.

The Process

Jeanine suggests the following process:

  1. Figure out who your target referral sources are. This should include categories, specific organizations and individuals.
  2. Get an appointment and use this as a discovery opportunity. The idea here is to get to know each other to see if there is synergy and a mutual fit.
  3. Talk about how a referral relationship might work. Key to this is thinking about and asking this question: How can I help you grow your business . . . or make your job easier.Ultimately the question is this:  How Can I Help You?
  4. As you get referrals be sure to say thanks, along with providing whatever other feedback  will help grow the relationship.
  5. Continue nurturing and growing this business relationship. And here is the substantive difference. There is a belief that ‘relationship’ is about personal relationships and personality. In a referral relationship, the relationship is about the business value the relationship delivers. And while it is always important to be likeable, it is NOT the key factor.Definition of this sales relationship:  Finding out how your referral source’s business or service functions and determining a way to help them do it better.

Strategic Thinking

The other really significant part of the referral network process is that you need to continuously evaluate the quality of your relationships. Focus areas should include these:

  1. Are the relationships you have still working? This needs to be a bidirectional question. Is it working for you, meaning are you getting referrals? and . . . Is it working for your referral source? Are they getting what they need from the relationship?
  2. If a relationship is not working as well as it should, can you fix it or should you dump it. For a variety of reasons sometimes you need to be realistic and just move on to greener pastures.
  3. Are there new referral sources that you should be cultivating?
  4. Are you too dependent on a single referral source? This is a huge risk for any provider. Jeanine would never suggest you cut yourself off from a goldmine referral source, but a single source is a big risk. You need to have a contingency plan for that day when this source dries up. You may think it will never happen, but nothing is forever.