Carrie Simpson is the founder and CEO of Managed Sales Pros. She has over 20 years of cold calling experience and supports a team of 30 lead generators. Her team makes over 40,000 outbound MSP prospecting calls monthly.  

The proactive solicitation of referrals can differentiate successful MSPs from their counterparts. Instead of waiting for a friend or client to walk leads to their door, sales-focused MSPs actively seek out referrals.

So, how do you go from accepting occasional passive referrals to aggressively building a powerful referral network? It’s not difficult, but it requires some work. The first step in the process is turning your focus inward.

Let’s start from the premise that every company has three types of clients:

  • Happy Evangelists are outgoing, and likely well-known in their community. In fact, they are probably the clients who are already actively sending you referrals. They are fans of your services, and they don’t mind telling anyone who will listen.

  • Already Gone clients are vocal about their dissatisfaction. They have already made the decision to leave; they are just finishing out their contract. These are the clients you should have released when things started to turn badly. They’re writing bad reviews and taking up a disproportionate amount of your time.

  • Danger Zone clients make up the other clients on your roster. Very few clients will discuss your performance with you unprompted. That means for every one client that outright tells you they’re unhappy with you, there are dozens that aren’t saying a word.

Your competitors don’t want your Already Gone clients and they can’t have your Happy Evangelists. However, they can get to your Danger Zones.

What does all this have to do with referrals? Everything. You wouldn’t ask an unhappy client to provide you with a referral. You need to know which of your clients are loving you and which of your clients are leaving you. The secret to your success in generating referrals is in effectively managing your relationships with the quiet clients, not in falling all over yourself to please your noisy outliers.

Here’s the good news – it’s not hard to turn a Danger Zone client into a Happy Evangelist. Try this:

  • Take your clients through a detailed customer service survey.

  • Ask specific questions to lead them to provide measurable, quantifiable facts about your services. These questions can include “Can you share with me what network changes were most helpful to your business? How much money do you estimate we were able to save you this year? Who on our team do you most enjoy interacting with? Why do you like them? Can you tell me what you have enjoyed most about working with us?  What do you think separates us from your last provider?”  

  • Find out what you need to do better.

The replies should help you identify the clients on your roster who are truly happy and just quiet, and more importantly, the ones who are potentially considering leaving. This process allows you to begin preserving and rebuilding those potential “one foot out the door” relationships (more on that next month) and even better, will help you gently nudge your satisfied but silent clients into that Happy Evangelist role!

Once you’ve gathered all this information, you have some work to do.

  • Create case studies and testimonials from your most positive customer service survey results. Meet with your client, present your findings, and ask them to sign off or edit the content of your new materials as they desire.

  • NOW THE IMPORTANT PART: Ask them for referrals.

You’ve met with your client, established they are happy and know WHY they are happy. You’ve done all the work to create something that fairly represents the facts that they’ve shared with you. They’ve agreed they love working with you, and they’ve agreed to publicly state that. The next step is to ask them if they know anyone who could benefit from your services. If they are responsive, consider asking them for specific introductions to people in their network.

Remember, the easier it is for your clients to refer business to you, the more likely it is that they will. Start on social networking sites like LinkedIn. Make a short list of the people you’d like to do business with that your client is connected to and share that list with your client. Ask them how they would approach each one. Then get started connecting!

Finally, remember that when building your referral network, reciprocity is king. If you start asking for referrals, you need to begin actively engaging with your community and gathering referrals for the people who are sharing them with you. Become known as the person who is invested in the success of everyone they speak to and watch your referral network (and your MRR) grow.

Read Carrie's previous blogs, How MSPs Can Successfully Handle Outbound Prospecting and How MSPs Can Measure Sales Success