If you were in the business of making widgets, you’d have a sales team, and your survival would rely on their performance. You would educate them about your widget so that they could sell it effectively into the market. You would give them a list of prospects. You would equip them with Pipeline Management software so they could keep track of new business opportunities. And you would reward your top closers with generous bonus checks so they wouldn’t jump ship and start selling for your competitors.
But in your business, you have an external sales team. You call them referral sources. And while they aren’t on payroll, they are no less critical to your survival.
So take a page out of the widget-maker’s book and make sure your referral sources are educated about your services, especially the under-performers. If they’ve only referred once, or their referrals have been off-target, take them out to lunch and give them a better sense of what they’re promoting. If you have a list of companies or individuals you would like as clients, share those prospects with your referral sources so they can focus their efforts on your behalf. And make sure you’re connected with your referral sources on LinkedIn. It’s the closest thing to a CRM you’re likely to share with them. This may seem like a lot of work (managing a sales team often is), but look on the bright side—you don’t have to send them a year-end bonus check (though a holiday gift basket might not be such a bad idea).
We get so caught up in the day-to-day dealings of our practices that we sometimes forget the people who help to justify its existence. Know your top 10 referral sources in order of performance. Be generous in your acknowledgment of their contribution. And never forget that your competitors will recruit them the moment they start to feel unappreciated.