We received a call recently from the owner of an art dealership who wanted to know, “How do I grow my art business?”
You see, only a few years ago his business was substantially larger. But his top customer for 22 years who represented the majority of his business left him. They’d done deals on a handshake all that time. Until the time they backed out on a million dollar order because they decided to outsource to China instead.
That’s tough to recover from. To his credit, he has survived it and is ready to get back to growing his company. He said he was looking for ideas for how to grow his business.
He had already made connections with the right contacts at many of his Target customers. Even though he personally has several decades of experience in this business, people were unwilling to switch dealers. They were loyal to their current suppliers and weren’t interested in switching even though he could save them over 10% for the same product.
So we talked with this business owner about the importance of KLT (Know Like Trust) in the growth of any small business. Any business really. It boils down to needing trust to earn business as well as referrals. You see, the contacts he was speaking with at his Target customers he had met through cold methods vs. being introduced by a trusted source. That makes it so much more difficult to build trust.
We suggested that the first thing he should do is build a referral team with someone from his KLT list. The basic concept with a referral team is to meet with someone on a regular basis (e.g. once or twice per month) to continue building KLT and make one introduction for each other each month to someone in your Target Market.
It almost sounds too simple, I know. But since it’s so simple, why not give it a shot? It takes a little upfront work on your part to get the referral team started:
1. Target Market: who is your best client? Why? Who would be your ideal type of client? What do they look like?
2. Message: why does your best customer buy from you vs. your competition vs. not using your product or service at all?
3. Channel: figure out what other people service that same customer on a regular basis. Find someone from your KLT list who services that same type of customer.
In the case of the art dealer, one of his Target Markets is purchasing agents in hotels. So finding other companies that service hotels could include: food wholesalers, beverage suppliers, uniform companies, cleaning supplies, grease cleaning and collection, etc.
The point is to keep going with a brainstorm to get as many possibilities as you can to make a connection within your KLT circle. If you don’t have any obvious connections, then you will need to look into companies in those particular industries and see who you might know or find out who you should get to know. Start with your personal database or LinkedIn to search for people in your Target companies.
One of our most successful business coaching clients had one customer who represented 88% of their business when we met them. Over the course of a couple of years we helped guide them through a more than doubling of their business. KLT was the basis for this growth which was achieved even after they fired that 88% client two-and-a-half years into our relationship.
So what’s holding you back from starting a referral team with someone from your KLT list? If they KLT you, they are willing to help you.