As a kid growing up in Ireland, summers meant working alongside my four brothers in the family painting business. My dad often reminded us that in a small country like Ireland, if your work was excellent, word would spread like wildfire and you’d have all the business you could handle. The reverse would also be true, so it was critical we did excellent work for every customer.
We were all mentored by my grandfather, Harry Buffini, and at the end of each day he’d come and ask you this question: “Well Brian, can you put your name to that?” If you couldn’t put your name to the work you had done, you had to do it over. The goal was not just to meet customer expectations, but exceed them. Harry knew that exceptional work spoke for itself.
When I immigrated to America I took these old-world values and combined them with a strong promotional marketing system. As an agent I was able to average 30 to 40 high-quality referrals a month because I had a system that provided both value and benefit to my customers while also communicating my character and competence as a professional in their corner.
Today, I’m Chairman of Buffini & Company and we’ve built the world’s largest business training and coaching company based on this very system. In the U.S., our clients earn six times that of the typical NAR Member, and the beauty of what we teach is its simplicity. But it would be a mistake to confuse simple with simplistic. Many people think they are already working by referral when in fact they have a “word of mouth” business. Here’s an example: A friend of a family member buys or sells a home but doesn’t use you. Or someone tells you about a close friend who wants to move: “I gave her your card and told her to call you!” Yet you never heard from that person. Has this ever happened to you?
These are classic “word of mouth” situations and the reason people don’t spend time on the referral side of their business; they believe referrals are random and accidental. At Buffini & Company, we’ve taken the “Working by Referral” system and engineered it so that it produces a steady stream of high-quality referred clients. Because referrals don’t happen by accident!
Working by Referral
Across the board in the service industries, building relationships is the cornerstone of success. When I first entered the real estate industry in San Diego, my personal philosophy on how to treat people did not sync with the traditional, non-relational methods of cold calling, door knocking, etc. The day I realized my clients could help me build my business by referring me to others was the day my career changed forever. I implemented a systematic approach to generating referred leads and began to see great success.
But this is not by accident. I believe that without a system, you are simply waiting for word of mouth business. With a systematic approach to lead generation by referral, however, you find leads rather than wait for them to materialize. So let’s take a look at how you can achieve this.
Build – Gather the names of all those you know – including past clients.
Sort – Prioritize this database and consistently communicate with those who refer you most.
“A’s” – most likely to refer you
“B’s” – would refer you, if asked and shown how
“C’s” – might refer you in the future
“D’s” – names to be deleted from your database – it’s good to get rid of a headache, so do this up front!
Qualify – Using targeted dialogs, continually prune and refine this database to determine who is willing to do business with and refer you.
As you can see, this is simple, but very effective. You market only to your most responsive audience. By providing first-class service you build a core group of advocates for your business. Those in our Coaching program learn to implement a “Client Appreciation Program” – a three-pronged communication system designed to keep them in contact with clients after the sale is made.
Client Appreciation Program
Contact (Calls and ‘Items of Value’)
Care (Personal Notes and “Pop-Bys” – visiting clients with a small, meaningful gift)
Community (Business Luncheons and Client Parties)
I based this system on the philosophy of “Give, Ask and Receive” – giving clients great service and providing them with “items of value,” following-up each conversation with a request for referrals, and then watching the referrals pour in.
This way of generating business is based on principles that stem from the heart of sales: relationships. Working the system this way means you’ll not only be able to put your name to the work you do, but your clients will also be more than pleased to put their name to you and refer you to all their friends.