Getting referred by other people is a fantastic way of getting business. It saves you the job of doing your own sales because someone else is doing it for you, and it means when you speak to the potential client, the work is essentially yours to lose. The client is already ‘primed’ – they are expecting to hear from you; they already know that they need you; and because you’ve been recommended by someone they presumably trust, they already know you have some credibility, and are expecting you to be a good option for what they need. You’ve got less convincing to do!
One of the things we do as part of our training for new consultants is some in depth work on how to get recommended. It’s an art and there’s several things you need to be aware of and need to do to increase the chances of someone referring you.
But one of the absolute basics can easily be forgotten, and that’s making sure people who could refer you actually know what is it you do. I’m talking mainly about at the beginning of your business, when you have no, or few, clients, and haven’t been ‘out there’ for long. At that point your potential referrers mainly consist of people you already know. Your friends, former colleagues, people you’ve interacted with professionally in some capacity. Relatives, neighbours, people you attend a social event or hobby with. These people all might either own a small business themselves, or will quite possibly know someone who does. They might know your perfect client.
But they can’t refer you if they aren’t clear about exactly what it is you do. If your friends, colleagues, relatives, neighbours and other contacts just vaguely know you are an HR consultant, they won’t be able to refer you.
And actually, even in a work context, talking to people you’ve perhaps met at networking or online as part of your social media marketing, if they aren’t clear exactly what it is you do, and what type of client you work with, they can’t refer you either.
So maybe consider describing your work differently. If you refer to yourself as an HR consultant when asked what you do, don’t leave it there. Mention your niche (you have one, right?) immediately afterwards – “I’m an HR consultant for small businesses”, for example, or for tech companies in Cambridgeshire, or for large national charities, or in the manufacturing sector, or specialising in diversity and inclusion. Whatever it is.
That doesn’t mean rattle on about what you do whenever you get a chance and are supposed to be ‘off duty’ doing the school run. Just make sure you give a bit more information, and where there is a chance, make sure the person is actually clear about what kind of client you work with. Then they’re more likely to remember people they know who could be your ideal client, and sing your praises to that person.
If you’d like to know more about becoming part of our growing team, do get in touch.