Grow Sales: Introducers and Referrers
The benefit of referrals
Customers that are introduced to you are very valuable leads. An introduction is a form of endorsement of your service. Therefore, being recommended by someone shows that you have provided a good service on a consistent basis. Not only does this mean you can be provided with a long-term source of leads but converting them at a good fee can be easier. You will need to sell yourself less than another surveyor they speak to because you come pre-vetted.
For the customer, receiving an introduction takes the hard work out of finding and vetting potential suppliers. But the top benefit is that it reduces the risk of the unknown and that’s important, as everyone wants to make the right decision.
Building referral partnerships with a number of companies can be a great way of generating quality, pre-qualified leads without needing to invest in an ongoing marketing spend.
How to build referral relationships
Provide a strong service
Let’s be upfront – getting referrals is going to be very difficult if what you’re offering is rubbish – both from the quality of reports and how it is delivered to what it is like to work with you as an individual or company.
The referral process takes time to earn. To do this you need to consistently perform every time you engage with that individual. You need to have a customer-centric view and there are many elements to think about. For starters customer-centric means thinking about both your actual customer and your referrer as a customer.
A company or individual isn’t obligated to refer clients. They may even have had bad experiences in the past. In order for them to consider choosing you to be a referral partner over any other surveyor they see coming in to their offices you need to add lots of value. What that company or person considers value depends on the referring company – we’ll go into this in more detail shortly.
You should never underestimate the importance of your staff in the referral process. It is important to invest in their training, customer service and engagement with the business. If you do that you’ll have happier employees. Happy employees will look after your customers and go the extra mile. This is a huge factor in referral marketing.
Take time to build relationships
Each interaction you have with other people in the buying process is an opportunity to build a partnership. As a surveyor you are likely the last person in the buying process to be instructed. A home buyer engages with an estate agent to find a house, conveyancer to start the legal process or mortgage broker to confirm they can buy the house before they’ll get to the point of needing to check a house over.
If you interact with each of these individuals as just a necessary evil you are missing out on opportunities. For example when you call an estate agent to arrange keys and go to collect them do you take time to chat to the receptionist or agent that meets you or just request keys and leave? When you drop the keys back do you let them know the customer will have their report in 3 days time so they can keep their vendor better informed or just drop them and go?
If each time you go in you take time to get to know them and build up a rapport then you make your life much easier when you ask the all important question… could we discuss a referral partnership?
What Motivations Do I Need to Consider for Different Stakeholders?
Many surveyors we speak to have commonly considered an estate agent recommending a survey like a turkey voting for Christmas. It is certainly true that some estate agents don’t want to recommend surveying services. However, these agents have potentially pre-vetted themselves as the types of agents you don’t want to work with. They aren’t looking to offer a balanced service all round.
But is it fair to tar every agent with the same brush? Certainly not. Large agent chains recommend their own surveying firms – they definitely wouldn’t do this if surveys were such a bad idea for agents to make buyers aware of.
Why? Many agents acknowledge the survey as a valuable tool in ensuring a transaction goes ahead. A survey can build the confidence of the buyer. If the buyer is worried about committing to a sale, the survey can provide the knowledge and peace of mind that it is ok to go ahead (either at full price or a negotiated one). Does an estate agent care hugely about a renegotiation? A bit, yes. But the bigger picture is that the sale goes ahead and they get their commission versus no sale. With some perspective, on a £400k house and 1.5% fee if £10k is knocked off the value then they lose £150 from a £6k fee. Definitely worth the survey to secure the sale.
What value can you add to an estate agent?
An agent is looking for more than a surveyor who rushes in and out and doesn’t engage in conversation. An agent works in a people business. If you can’t get on with them then will you be good with their customers? What is also important to an estate agent is information. From a simple gauge of when the report is expected so they can follow up with their buyer and vendor to well written reports that provide guidance on the issues.
Issues being highlighted on a report is not an issue for an agent. An issue is where a report condemns a perfectly good property because it fails to provide guidance, solutions and perspective. If the customer is left in fear because of what has been listed potentially collapsing a sale when all that is needed is some detail to outline that the issues can be dealt with over time, would cost approximately £x and are in line with similar properties then you aren’t going to be winning referrals.
You may not be able to provide information on the survey to an agent without your customers consent but you can ensure your customer is left with tangible information and in a fair position, feeling they can comfortably make a decision to continue, renegotiate or walk away.
You could call agents once the buyer has a report to let them know that the process has been completed. This enables the agent to update their vendor and engage with the buyer at the appropriate moment.
Communication is key for agents.
Conveyancers care about the legal details. They have to process large amounts of paperwork for properties they have never seen. If your customer is happy to share the legal aspects of the report to the conveyancer, does your report have a clear legal section so they don’t have to keep looking for points throughout the report? Could you provide a separate one page legal document that can be sent to the conveyancer to make life really easy?
Taking this further, you are the conveyancers eyes on the ground.
- When you notice building works that need planning or building control checks, adding details about the extent of the works and approximate age helps them determine how important it is to ensure the check is done.
- Did you check the title deed to check the boundary marks looked reasonable compared to the plan.
- Can you point out any access rights issues that may need to be checked that might not be obvious without visiting?
Could you offer to pass this on yourself and quickly summarise your points over the phone or by email? If you can consistently make their lives easier, they’ll want to work with you more.
Mortgage Lenders / Mortgage Brokers
Like an agent, their motivation is that the sale goes ahead. They get paid if the mortgage is taken. If you can show a mortgage broker that your reports and service help customers and leave them feeling confident in their next steps they will also want to use you.
Again, their issue is not a sale falling through due to big problems found. Their issue is where reports come back leaving the customer unsure of the severity of problems or what they can do about it. Most customers want to find a way of getting into their dream home so issues cropping up in reports is only a problem if the customer is left not knowing what to do.
Never be afraid to ask past customers for referrals. While some will naturally just happen, you will secure far more if you prompt customers. You’ll be surprised how many customers are willing to share your services with others if you just ask.
Of course, to do this, you need to be completely confident that you have exceeded their expectations. Even the busiest customer won’t shy away from recommending you, if you’ve made a great impression. Have you gone the extra mile? Have you really stood out? If so, your customers will want to do the same for you.
Don’t be afraid to get creative in your message to them. Taking a fun or humorous approach can work wonders. Just keep it short, simple and unobtrusive.
There are usually local online groups, platforms or directories that would be happy to list your services. These can be very powerful if combined with past customers sharing your details on them.
What must you consider in a referral partnership?
- You must respond to every referral. There is nothing worse than referring a client to a company to find out they were ignored. It brings into question how good the companies are that the referrer is working with.
- Provide a great service to justify the recommendation. When you’ve been recommended, a customer will be expecting a good service. Why else would you be recommended otherwise? You must consistently provide a good service to every lead sent your way to keep the referrer confidently sending the leads through.
- Update the referrer on every lead. It is nice for the referrer to know how each referral got on. Did they go ahead, have they received a report? That way they know if they can help customers engage with your service better and understand how well it is being received.
Referral Fees or No Referral Fees.
A big question with differing opinions. Some will say it is fair to pay a referral fee – it is a marketing cost for acquiring the lead. Others would suggest that they should not be paid. Each party should be happy that they are focusing on quality of service. A company that is focused heavily on earning additional revenue through referral fees may not be offering a good enough service themselves to justify charging a higher fee. Do you want to be associated with a company needing to stay afloat this way.
If you do pay a referral fee – how much? Pay out too much and you’re devaluing your own service. Do you add the fee on or take it out your normal fee? If the customer finds out they have paid extra just because of an introduction this could lead to the relationship going sour. We recommend that you disclose all referral fees paid (it is also now a requirement).
An alternative to referral fees are gifts during the year. You could instead choose at different points in the year to provide bottles of wine, a hamper, an ipad – you name it. There are ways to thank and reward the referrer, not just through incentives but by making sure they know how much you really value them and that they took the time to recommend you. Send them a card or some other surprise. This will again set you apart from the rest and certainly help keep you front of mind when there is another opportunity to recommend you.
Can you refer their services?
If you are working with a mortgage broker, can you offer to put a conveyancer you want to work with in touch with the broker and vice versa? Whilst you may come later in the buying process and therefore not be able to pass leads on to others, you may be able to facilitate introductions between others in the process too.
Do you have a system for managing your leads?
Another important point to mention here is that you should already have some sort of system in place so you can monitor where your leads are coming from. Otherwise, you won’t know what’s working and what’s not, what you should be doing more of and what may need reviewing and improving.
Whether direct, from referrals or lead generation sites it’s good to know which sources provide the most leads, and which provide the best quality leads.
If referrals are converting badly, why? These should perform well as they come pre-qualified and you come recommended.
- Are you being too slow to respond?
- Are you following up with leads as they get older or just making one initial contact?
- Have you nurtured the relationship with your referrer so they provide good context about your service?
Referrals are positive for you, a referrer and the customer if setup correctly. To encourage referral marketing you need to put a successful referral marketing strategy in place ensuring you provide the benefits that suit the referrers motives.
The key elements you need are:
- Provide a great customer experience
- Have an outstanding product or service
- Keep in regular contact with customers
- Nurture brand ambassadors and influencers
- Ask for referrals and spell out how they can be given
- Make the whole referral process super easy
- Enable referrers to track each referral
- Show you appreciate anyone who recommends you
- Ensure you live up to expectations and are deserving of the recommendation
- Regularly analyse, review and improve the process to improve on it
Survey Booker offers the ability to create introducer accounts for different people that provide you referrals. You can see which leads have come from which referrer and your introducers can keep up to date on which leads have converted. Customers are immediately provided an account when they are referred where they can retrieve your quote, make payment and track updates.
You can set referral fees to add to your regular quote should you wish. All referred leads follow the same system and can be sent lead nurture emails so you can keep leads warm for when they are ready to go ahead.