How to Get Business Referrals in Secretive Industries

Businessman presses button referrals on virtual screens. Business, technology, internet and networking concept.
Businessman presses button referrals on virtual screens. Business, technology, internet and networking concept.

Referrals are one the most important parts of a successful business. When these come in and you deliver, more are likely on the way. In addition, these are a surefire sign that those you serve are more than satisfied and want to show support and appreciation. Unfortunately, there are industries which operate under a significant amount of discretion (read: secrecy). Examples are sports agents, investment bankers, ghostwriters, healthcare providers, and even business development professionals.

Because of this, it’s a lot more difficult to get referrals. You can’t necessarily ask your clients to spread the word since they don’t want others to know what you’ve done for them. To the outside world, each client is successful on his or her own, not because you provided advice, action plans, and of course, work product. Although you feel a sense of accomplishment and pride, you can’t just use these experiences freely.

How to Get Business Referrals in Secretive Industries

Referrals are a cornerstone of doing business, and, it’s what entire entities are based upon — examples include Angie’s List, Yelp, Healthgrades, and Home Advisor. These services provide consumers with real customer reviews and that relatable trust is what gets people to pickup the phone. In some industries, like those listed above, the provider might not be able to tap into the same resources.

Your best source of new business is referrals from happy customers or clients. You cannot receive a better lead than one that has been sent your way with a strong referral. You cannot have a more motivated prospect arrive in your store or restaurant than someone sent there by a raving fan. —Forbes

If you want to get referral business, but are in a business that’s subject to secrecy, you can still do so, you just need to be a little more creative. This is especially true if it’s not just based on discretion, but also, guaranteed with non-disclosure agreements. Here are some ways to get business referrals in secretive industries:

  • Use a “degrees of separation” approach. One way to get referrals when you’re subject to secrecy is through former industry insiders. Connect with individuals who use to be in the business and speak with each about being a brand advocate. The friend-of-a-friend approach is also worth giving a try to get more referrals.
  • Ask a willing client to speak on your behalf. You might have a current or former client or two that are willing to speak with others about doing business with you and their experiences. Take advantage of this and show your appreciation with a gift, discount, or another way of saying, “Thank you.”
  • Give potential customers more control. One thing that scares new prospects is the fear of making a big and/or long-term commitment. To overcome this objection, give potential customers flexible and short terms.
  • Openly demonstrate your plans. Possible customers might also be unsure of what you’ll be able to deliver — because of this, the secretiveness balloons into a larger problem. To combat this, openly demonstrate your plans and let him or her evaluate and ask questions.

Another thing you can do is to give away a little to entice potential clients to doing business with you.  By doing so, you’re demonstrating your confidence in your abilities, and, willingness to do what it takes to earn his or her business.

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