Proactively building relationships with industry experts is a powerful way to generate sales leads and positive word of mouth (WOM).
Four steps to garner expert referrals:
- Map out the key players, experts, opinion molders in your industry. Look at speakers at industry events, authors, bylines and contributed articles in trade journals, and blogs. Now you should have a pretty good map of the people you need to know.
- Research them, their companies, their clients or customers. Do they work with companies that fit your ideal customer profile? Make your shortlist.
- Approach them with simple value proposition via phone with something like this. “I’m contacting you as a recognized expert in our industry. We’re interested in your assessment of our company’s value proposition for the [fill in the blank] industry. Also, we’d like to understand your practice’s focus better because we are actively working this market and expect to find opportunities that need strategic expertise such as yours. Would you be interested in exploring this further?"
- Common ties – Another simple but powerful way of finding new sales leads is get to know your customer’s trusted advisors that tie into your value proposition. Do your research (step 2 above). Give them a call. You have something in common already – the same customer. This is an effective way to expand your network and generate more leads.
Many experts will give you permission to post their articles and resources on your website or newsletter. The "about the author" gives them more exposure, and positions you as an expert too because their credibility rubs off on you i.e. you benefit positively from the halo effect.
Over time, as you build your lead generation program, your experts may be interested in co-developing white papers, special research reports, articles, and events with you.
Experts pride themselves on their professional integrity, so they will likely refer business to you and a competitor (assuming you have them) at the same time. You will still have an edge by investing in the relationship. They are still more likely to favor someone who has shown an interest in them and given them value.
Why does this work? You begin by being genuinely interested in their business. Secondly, experts – stay experts – by continually updating their knowledge of industry trends, information, key players, tools and ideas.
They continually seek out other relevant resources that could possibly help their clients. If you can be a good resource for their clients… they need you.
Finally, when experts are doing their consulting, writing, and speaking – they are not completely focused on new business development. The result, many go through phases of feast and famine. You and your company could also be sales lead referral source for them too.