18 Ways to Increase Vendor Referrals: Networking Strategies

Learn to network with vendors. Networking is not always easy and it’s even harder when you are trying to get referrals from other professionals. You need to learn how they think, what their needs are and how your services will help them grow their own businesses too.

18 Ways to Increase Vendor Referrals: Networking Strategies

When you are looking to grow your business, one of the best ways is by getting referrals. But how do you get them? Well, it all starts with networking and here’s what you need to know about building relationships with other vendors.

One strong referral may get you a new lead, but multiple strong referrals result in bookings. It’s important to understand how vendor networks work and how to be strategic about building your own network.

I’m going to give you an actionable plan that will help you build your network and get tons of vendor referrals here.

Learn to network with vendors. Networking is not always easy and it’s even harder when you are trying to get referrals from other professionals.

You need to learn how they think, what their needs are and how your services will help them grow their own businesses too.

1. Focus on asking the right questions

The important questions you must ask yourself are:

  • Do the vendors trust you to do a great job?
  • Do the vendors like you?

The people you are talking to will be much more receptive if they feel like you really want to know about them and their business.

2. Be strategic in your approach

Some vendors will share information with you and others won’t, so it is important to approach them strategically. Make sure you are focused on your goals and make sure you get what you want out of the networking opportunities.

  • Make it clear that you will not share their information with others.
  • It’s important to let them know that they can trust you and that you will not be sharing their information with anyone else.
  • Structure your “ask” to make it easier for the vendor to say yes.

3. Create a referral program

You can create a referral program with complementary vendors to exchange referrals. Be sure you only include providers in this network that you'd be comfortable recommending to your best client or best friend.

Mutual referrals  can be a great marketing asset for small-business owners. Business owners take stock of their areas of service and expertise and seek out other small-business owners, vendors or consultants who provide complementary services.

All parties agree to be part of a referral program in which they each refer their own customers to others in their referral program for ancillary services.

4. Vendor Community

Create a vendor community to support each other and your businesses together. This should be one of the first steps you take once you've identified the other vendors in your area.

The first step is to sit down with all of them and discuss what they want in a referral program.

A referral proactively offers to promote the vendor through social media, testimonials or through other means.

You can also ask your vendors for permission to share their information and testimonials on your website and in newsletters that you send out to clients.

5. Recognize the referral sources

In order to get referrals from other vendors, you need to be a good referral source yourself. Make sure you are always thinking about your clients and what you can do for them.

Be very generous with your time and information in the beginning, so they will remember to refer business back to you.

6. Be gratitude for  the referrals you do get

Don’t take your vendor network for granted; make sure you thank the people who provide you with business and referrals.

Make sure you are very generous with your time and information in the beginning so they will remember to refer business back to you. Do your best work for each event you work on to make it a good referral.

7. Quality matters

When it comes to getting referrals, the quality of your services is a major factor. Make sure that people are talking about how well you did on an event and that they are good references for your business.

8. Be Unique

Be unique in how you market yourself and your business. There is no point of trying to be someone else when it comes to getting referrals from other vendors.

Make sure you are branding yourself in a way that makes sense for your industry and clearly communicates who you are to other professionals.

9. Find innovative ways to promote

If you are prohibited from providing referrals, create other ways for your clients to recommend you. One idea is to provide recommendation letters that highlight specific.

There are many ways to promote your business other than handing out cards at a networking event or putting up fliers around town. Social media is one of the best ways to get referrals because it allows you to build a community around your brand.

If there are vendors who you have worked with in the past, but don’t want to work with again, provide them a testimonial. If you have been able to provide them with a great service, they will be more than happy to write you a reference letter or testimonial.

10. Utilize concrete ideas

Make sure you are concrete in your approach and provide specific examples of what to do. This way, it is easier for the other person to understand what you are trying to say and what it is that you want from them.

The key here is to provide the other person with concrete ideas that are easy for them to implement. Be expressive with your requests and try to make it as easy for them to say yes.

11. Treat your clients as referrals partners

It’s important that you treat your client as a referral partner, not just another client. Make sure to let them know they can trust you and that they can refer business to you, but do not ask for referrals.

And reassure them that  they can  rely on you to send them referrals. Be sure that you are very generous with your time and information in the beginning, so they will remember to refer business back to you.

12. Spread information about all your products and services

Vendors will only refer to the services you provide that they know about. Make sure your information is spread throughout their networks so when a client needs a certain service, they know whom to refer them to.

13. Network with other industry

A referral network of complementary vendors can be a great marketing asset for small-business owners.

Business owners take stock of their areas of service and expertise and seek out other small-business owners, vendors or consultants who provide complementary services.

All parties agree to be part of a referral program in which they each refer their own customers to others in their referral program for ancillary services.

14. Outline the expectations

Provide information about the specific products and services you provide and the ways in which your small business can be beneficial to the vendor’s existing clients.

Ask for specific visibility, such as a website link, access to a mailing list or the distribution of your company literature through the vendor’s place of business.

15. List your vendor referrals

It is important to make sure you always remember who referred the customer to you. This will help build trust between all parties involved and show your gratitude for the referral.

Let them know that their client will receive a good service in return, so they won’t have any concerns about referring people to you.

Be proactive in creating a referral strategy plan with your vendors, so everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect and when.

16. Financial Agreements

Outline all terms of the agreement in writing. This approach ensures that both parties are protected and compensated per the terms of a legally binding contract.

While most referral programs are conducted on a cost-free agreement, some small businesses pay vendors a fee to refer their business or vice versa.

17. Prepare  for referrals

Before you sit down to discuss a referral program, it is good to be prepared with questions and concerns. Come up with an idea of the types of services you’d like to provide and determine how much it would cost.

Just because your referral partners are in the same industry doesn’t mean you can assume they have similar clientele. You may be working with an attorney who gets a lot of referrals for business accounting services, but the accountant may not get any legal work at all.

Make sure you ask your partners what types of clients they refer to other businesses, so you don’t come up with a referral program that doesn’t make sense.

18. Don't hesitate to ask for referrals

All you need to do is ask. You’ll get a lot more referrals if you ask for them. As you’re completing a project with a client, simply ask if they know anyone who would benefit from something similar.

This works best if you already have a great working relationship with your clients and they are aware of the types of services you provide.

This article helps you to jumpstart your own idea generation. Create a referral process that works for your ideal clients and networks to increase vendor referrals today!