How to Grow Your Business with Referrals and Scale a Service Business » Succeed As Your Own Boss

#Smallbizchat Podcast LIVE is a monthly video chat where small business owners can get answers to their questions.

The focus of #Smallbizchat Podcast LIVE is to end small business failure by helping participants succeed as your own boss.

Please join us live on my SmallBizLady Facebook Page or my YouTube Channel. 

Joanne Black headshot imageJoanne Black is America’s leading authority on referral selling and the author of two books: No More Cold Calling: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust, and Pick Up the Damn Phone!: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal. Companies in growth mode recognize the need to shift from sourcing leads through technology to sourcing qualified leads through relationships. Clients work with Joanne to build a referral culture and pivot quickly from transactional selling to referral selling. For more information:

SmallBizLady: It’s no secret that today’s marketplace is a crowded one. Thanks to technology and globalization, competition is stiffer than ever. So how do you ensure that buyers choose you?

Joanne Black: Here’s a hint. It’s not technology. Your competitors have access to the same data, social-selling tools, and marketing applications that you do. They’ve probably read the same sales blogs and articles, and they know how to use LinkedIn. 

The secret to real sales success is building strong, respected, relationships that earn you the right to ask for referrals.

SmallBizLady: Why are referrals the faster way to grow revenue and grow your business?

Joanne Black: The biggest sales challenge of anyone in business is attracting new customers. But just not any customer, only the ones who fit your ideal customer profile.

That’s exactly what referrals do. You receive introductions to your prime prospects. You’re not just calling names on lists; you’re calling bona fide decision-makers who expect to hear from you and want to take your call. Your get meetings in one call, get in early, uncover pressing problems, build strong relationships, get introduced to others in the organization, and cement your status as a trusted and preferred resource. 

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SmallBizLady: What is the biggest missed opportunity in asking for referrals?

Joanne Black: Every company has an under-utilized higher-value revenue stream that can generate significant qualified opportunities in both good times and bad.

Your customers are waiting. They’d be glad to refer you, BUT, you must ask. Every company gets inbound referrals—when a customer asks you back or when someone contacts you and says they were referred. What’s not happening is outbound referrals—proactively learning how to ask for referrals and making referrals your #1 outbound prospecting approach.

You know you’ve done a great job and wonder why clients aren’t regularly referring you. There are three reasons:

  1. They don’t know you want more business. That sounds like a dumb question, but how would they know unless you told them? They’re not mind-readers. They’re busy running their businesses, and they’re just not thinking of you. They also might think if they refer you, you won’t have time for them. You can cut that objection off at the pass. Tell them you’re looking for one or two more great customers—just like they are, and you’ll always have time to take care of them.
  2. They don’t know your ideal customer profile. Who, exactly, do you want to meet? People want to make a good introduction and put good people together. Be as specific as you can about your ideal client—their role in the company, geography, company size, and issues they’re facing that you can solve.
  3. You haven’t articulated the business reason for the referral and know how to ask for an introduction. Clients will refer you because you’re a good person, dependable, courteous, etc. But your prospect will take a meeting because of the results your client got to solve similar issues.

How to Buy an Existing Business

David Barnett headshotDavid Barnett loves to say that it took him 10 years to un-learn what he was taught in business school. After a career in advertising sales, Barnett started several businesses including a commercial debt brokerage house. Helping to finance small and medium sized businesses led to the field of business brokerage.  Over several years, Barnett sold dozens of businesses for others while also managing his own portfolio of income properties and starting his career as a local private investor. Barnett regularly consults with professionals and banks on business and asset values. Presently he also works with entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs around the world who are buying, selling or trying to improve their businesses. For more info

SmallBizLady: What’s the best place to find a business to buy?

David C. Barnett: The easiest place is to look at online marketplaces where people advertise businesses for sale. The trouble is that everyone else is looking there as well and only one in five businesses that are sold are found this way. The BEST way to find one is to determine what kind of business you want, then go make relationships with owners in that industry and find one directly. You’ll potentially avoid competing with other buyers.

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SmallBizLady: I’ve heard you can buy a business with zero down, is this true?

David C. Barnett: Only for people who are already in the specific industry with a business that has a strong balance sheet. People who are wealthy and control businesses and assets are able to buy businesses entirely with other people’s money. People who are broke do not have these opportunities, generally. Do not be fooled into thinking that some trickery and cunning will let you somehow obtain something of great value with nothing in exchange. 

SmallBizLady:  Why should anyone consider buying a business over just starting a new one?

David C. Barnett: To be successful in business you need the products, services, and systems to deliver for customers and you need a market of willing customers in sufficient volume to cover expenses and make a profit. When you start something new, you’re in a race to develop the business and find customers in time before you run out of money. It’s a race to breakeven and this is where startup risk comes from. When you buy a business, these elements are in place from the start. You invest in making the purchase and enjoy immediate profitability if you buy it correctly.

How to Scale a Service Business

Eboni Bowman imageChef Eboni Bowman turned her lifelong love of cooking into Flavor Atlanta, a successful Georgia-based small business offering personal chef services, meal prep, cooking classes and catering. Both of Eboni’s grandmothers did a lot of cooking and baking – one was a professional caterer – and Eboni started helping them in the kitchen from when she was just five years old. Eboni studied at the Art Institute of Atlanta’s culinary school and has more than 20 years of experience in the culinary and hospitality industries.  For more information

SmallBizLady: What’s your # 1 tip for growing a service business?

Eboni Bowman:  You don’t have to do everything yourself! So, consider outsourcing tasks that you don’t have the time or expertise for, or that you don’t enjoy. Yes, there’ll be a cost involved, but a lot of business owners don’t realize that outsourcing done right can actually make you more money than you spend.  A great example for me has been outsourcing delivery. When I first started Flavor Atlanta, I was making customer deliveries myself. But as my customer base grew, that became too time-consuming and stressful, and it wasn’t feasible for me to be on the road making deliveries and, in the kitchen, making food. 

When I began using a crowdsourced delivery platform called Roadie, not only did it free up more time for me to spend growing my business, it led to more sales. That’s because Roadie enables same-day local delivery up to 100 miles, which includes a lot more customers than I was able to drive to myself. 

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SmallBizLady: How important are marketing and networking as a growth strategy?

Eboni Bowman: Social media is important as part of any overall marketing strategy. I do target local paid ads on social media around the holidays, when people are more likely to be looking for a caterer. But for your regular posts, don’t underestimate the power of the hashtag. What I’ve learned is that people like supporting local businesses, and if you use small business tags for wherever you’re located – #ATLsmallbusiness in Atlanta, for example – it’s a good way to reach potential customers.   

SmallBizLady: How has community volunteering helped you grow your business?

Eboni Bowman: Believe me, I get that small business owners are busy! But if you can find time to volunteer your professional services in your community, you may find it helps your business as well as the community. For example, I started running farm-to-table cooking experiences for an organization that supports Black-owned farms in Georgia. I did that to help the farmers, not to promote my business, but the farmers I met through volunteering liked what I did and ended up hiring me for a number of paid catering jobs.

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