One of the best ways to sell to other business is through referrals. Referral groups are made up of members who provide goods/services to the same target client but who are not in competition with each other who recommend each other’s products/services. eg Accountant & a web developer providing services to small & medium businesses based in Dublin. There are a number of professional & business groups which organise referral groups but the costs can be high. It is possible to start your own group but it does require a lot of work. There are plenty of free networking events regularly occurring in Dublin which are listed on meetup.com . When you have just started your business it’s often frustrating for entrepreneurs as one of the first questions you’ll always be asked is “Who are your customers?”. And it will be the same when you are building your referral group. So before you start building your referral group ensure you have a client base who are happy to recommend your product / service.
How to get your first customer
Although it is not right, to get those first customers you will have to work for less or even for free to get them on board and get the important referral. So be very selective in who you approach. Ideally you will be looking for two broad things for those first customers. Firstly you’ll want someone who’ll give you a reference either by phone or a comment plus their image for your website. A video reference is always the best choice but it is very difficult to get and most people will not agree to do it for someone who is not established in the market. You will also be looking for someone who is well known in your target market industry. It could be someone with a lot of connections LinkedIn who can share your website and recommend your product / service.
You can approach potential clients through LinkedIn or by attending network events listed on meetup.com. Finally you could also try reaching out to business owners on boards.ie on the entrepreneurial forum.
Building Your Group
Once you have built up a customer base you can then being to approach people to join your group. It’s very important to note most business owners often buy products / services through recommendations. The more expensive the service the less likely they will be to buy through seeing an ad on google’s search results page. If you are selling a product / service which has a high selling price in general you’re wasting your money advertising information online.
You can use the same sources listed above to source people to join your new group. Just ensure you vet each person thoroughly and don’t be afraid to say no if someone’s product / service is of poor quality. If you recommend a client to purchase a product / service and it doesn’t deliver it will harm your reputation.
Structure & Format
Generally there is one member per product/service. Members are required to refer only other members unless a product / service doesn’t exist within the group. Members tend to meet once a month to discuss how to promote the group and or welcome new members. Membership can have a short lifespan. As a members products / services are recommended to the clients of other members the benefits of being a member diminishes and the benefits of joining a new group increase. It will require a significant amount of work on your part to maintain the group and ensuring essential business services are covered by members.
If you are selling to business, building a referral group is one of the best things you can do but it does require a lot of work.