Ask for a Referral to Generate New Business Leads

by Todd Knutson

ask We all know we should ask for referrals. But it's the rare new business or sales person - in any company or industry - who habitually does. Even rarer is finding a company that has institutionalized the process. One of those is The Brooklyn Brothers, a New York City-based agency.

Paul Parton, Owner, talked about their process at the recent 2010 New Business Conference. Here's their approach (Paul's ideas, my words):

With every win...

Ask for a Referral. A referral can be either:

  • Internal = organic growth: the name of someone inside the company that your new client thinks would be a good fit for your agency. They might work on another brand, be responsible for a different marketing discipline, work in a different division, or perhaps be in a related organization.
  • External = new client: the name of someone outside the client company. This could be a former colleague, friend, etc. The best form of external referral is one where they call or email ahead of time to let the contact know that you'll be reaching out to them. Second best is for your client to give you permission to use their name when you contact the prospect.

If you come up empty asking for a referral, don't give up. The second best option is to...

Ask for a Press Release. A press release can be either:

  • Thin: this is usually easy to get and simply means that they agree to your mentioning that you are now working together.
  • Thick: often harder to get initially, but very possible if you have a story to tell later - i.e. where your ad agency has helped them grow and you have a metric to share with the market.

A good way to make a press release part of your contract is to include it in the negotiation. For example, if the client is pushing for a reduction in fees, agree on a reduced fee and (ideally) both a thin release at the outset, and a thick release later on (my thought - agree on what "later on" means).

I like this simple and effective approach, and would add only one thing: ask for both a referral and a press release.  You've got nothing to lose by asking!


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