Listener Question: 9 steps to getting more referral work from builders

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Today on the show today we answer Shane’s question on How to get more referral work from builders.  

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9 steps to getting more referral work from builders

We go through the nine steps Warrick recommends for building great relationships with builders and other trades to have a continual source of referral work for your business. 

Many contractors wish they had more referral sources for their business, passing them qualified leads that were simply a matter of quoting on, and winning, a high percentage of those jobs. The problem is a lot of contractors don’t know how to secure these referral sources, or perhaps don’t believe that they have a chance of actually influencing a referral source to change their existing preferred supplier. The good news is there’s a simple nine-step process to increasing the number of other trades that refer to your business.

Take, for example, a painter wanting to secure more referrals from a panel of five or six desired builders. If that painter simply advertised more or promoted his or her  business more on Facebook or on Google, it’s unlikely they’ll secure a relationship with any new builders. What he or she needs is a more direct approach and these nine steps will go a long way toward securing more success in this area.

1. Build a list.

You need to create an A-list of trades or contractors that you would like to have referring to you. Jot down the key aspects you’re looking for like size, location, type of works undertaken and so on. Get a good idea in your mind of who should be on the A-list and then simply use Google to find the names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails if you can get them, of those companies.

2. Your kick-ass letter, or direct mail piece.

This needs to be something different to the usual name, rank and serial number letter that so many businesses send out. You need something that’s a little different, that stands out from the crowd and doesn’t sound just like everybody else that sends ineffective brochures and direct mail pieces. Try doing something funny or quirky or a little off-the-wall. Even better is to use some images of projects that you’ve done in the past that you’re really happy with and have a glossy, high-quality, A4 collection of images from past projects.

Even better still would be to send some ‘lumpy mail’. This involves including something physically solid inside the envelope so that when the recipient gets it, it’s lumpy and they want to open it! You could staple a coffee bag to the letter, sticky-tape some $2 coins to the top of your marketing piece or include a stress ball or stubby cooler as a way to get people to open your communication. You’d better back that up with a decent letter but at least it gets past the bottom of the mail pile or avoids the rubbish bin. If you’d simply put your letter into a window-faced envelope that looks suspiciously like another bill it’s unlikely to get any attention.

3. Set aside time to make follow up calls.

It’s something that a lot of tradies and contractors don’t do. Even if they get step one and two done they fail to set aside time to follow up on the phone. Very few people will receive your letter and excitedly pick up the telephone and call you and offer for you to quote on their next job. You have to get on the phone and actually follow them up and the best way to ensure that that happens is to book the time out in your calendar so the appointment slot is ready to go.

4. Make the follow up calls.

It’s important to have a script and an approach already in your mind for when you do finally get prospects on the phone. You’ve already sent a letter so you have a reason for your call and you should state that when contacting your prospective referral sources. It might go something like this: “Hi, my name’s Warrick from XYZ Painting Company and the reason for my call is I sent you a letter with a coffee bag recently, and I was just wondering if you’d received it?”

Whether they received it or not doesn’t really matter. If they did, that’s great. They’ve probably seen it and they know who you are and they’re half expecting your call. Even if they didn’t see it you can save them the time of rummaging around to find it by saying literally that, “That’s okay. I can save you some time and just quickly explain to you what it was regarding. You should go find it though, because it has a coffee bag in it, and you might want to use it later! In the meantime I was hoping to learn more about your business and see if you’re the sort of builder we could work closely with.”

5. Book a meeting

The aim of the call in step 4 is to book a face-to-face meeting.  Very few people buy anything over the phone these days and referral sources are no different. In fact, they’re probably even a little tougher than a regular client. Aim to book a meeting so that you can drop in, introduce yourself, and find out more about their business.

(Related: How to get more referrals from your supplier)

6. Meet your prospective referrer.

The purpose of this meeting is not to sell them on the fact that they should use you for all of their work. The purpose of the meeting is to book the next action step, which is to give you a go on one job, or allow you to quote on a few, but it’s not to stitch them up for all their work from here until the end of time. At that meeting, make sure you ask them lots of questions about themselves, about their business, about their clients, about the challenges they face. If you were dating, you wouldn’t take your date out to dinner and talk all about yourself. (If that’s been your strategy it could explain some of your poor results!) You do want to find out lots about the business and get them talking about themselves so they feel like you really care. It will set you up to be well-placed to receive quotes from them.

7. Say thank you.

Send a simple thank-you email or post card (branded with your logo) to the person you met with and make sure that it gets to them that day, or perhaps the next day or two if it’s mailed. It’s a simple ‘1%’ strategy that a lot of people miss. Simply following up and saying thank you can make the difference between you getting an audience next time and disappearing into oblivion.

8. Be helpful.

Make sure you continue to stay in contact with that prospective referrer and put them on some sort of email list or ongoing contact list.  Send helpful tips about changes in your industry, new products or services and become a helpful business to them. You’ll become a resource and be much more likely to have their ear next time you call.

9. Follow up, follow up and follow up again.

One golden rule of sales is follow up, follow up, and follow up some more. The same holds true for getting work from other trades.

(Related:  One listener takes our advice on following up – hear the results)

If you booked an action back at step five, of quoting on some work, don’t leave it for three months before you get back to them. Follow it up three or four weeks later, let them know you haven’t received anything, and ask if they have a project coming up that you could quote on. Remember, persistence pays off.

Getting more referral work from builders and other trades can be much easier than you think. Follow the system, be persist and it could pay off big time for your trade business. 


more referral work from builders