We've covered five of the seven Crucial Marketing Secrets Every Pool Builder Should Know. Click here to see the others. 

Now let's talk about the one and only marketing secret that can help you make more money, work fewer hours and have more fun all at the same time. 

Marketing Secret #6: Referrals, of course, are the best leads of all. But you don't have to bribe or beg to get them. 

Here's  the challenge with writing an article about "getting more referrals." It's kind of like me suggesting that we should all “have more world peace.” Everyone's in support of it, but it takes more than just wanting it to make it happen. 

In fact, I'll be so bold as to say that – much like social media – when it comes to referrals, you're probably doing it wrong.

That's because most education on getting more referrals is based on one or both of the following "world-famous, tried and true, yet highly-annoying and barely successful" referral strategies: 

Begging: "Please, please, please, would you give me the names of five of your friends? Who do you know that might be interested in my services?"

Bribing: "Hey buddy, I'll give you $200 if you'll give me the name of somebody, and they buy a pool from me."

Yes, these strategies can work. But you and I both know they only work a small percentage of the time. And here's why: 

  • First of all, they make you look and sound like an annoying and desperate insurance salesman who's trying to use you for his own personal gain. 
  • It instantly demonstrates that you are first and foremost focused on your own success, rather than their satisfaction.
  • You're asking a happy, wealthy pool owner to stop enjoying that for a while, and start being your personal salesperson instead. If you thought you were building a positive relationship with this homeowner, you can kiss that idea goodbye. 

And most importantly – it ignores the most fundamental of all rules when it comes to getting more referrals: If they knew someone looking for a pool, and they thought you were the best fit for the job, they would tell you.

If you don't believe me, answer this question: Have you ever had an opportunity to refer a friend to someone who could help them, but didn't because that salesperson failed to first ask you for referrals or offer to bribe you with a little kickback?

Nah, me neither.

You and I don't give referrals because we were begged or bribed by a salesperson. 

We give referrals because we want to help our friends.

So instead, you should focus on creating a spectacular experience for your client so that if and when they ever run into someone who might benefit from your services, they won't hesistate to recommend you with glowing enthusiasm. If they genuinely believe you will do a great job, they'll be delighted to refer you because now they’re doing a favor for their friend. 

So let's get to what I really wanted to share with you in this article today. Not "hey, you should get more referrals," but "Here are some better, clever ways for you to get more referrals."  

Let me start by telling you about one of the most successful pool sales people I ever met. Down in Miami, for seven years straight, she consistently sold twice as much as every other salesperson in the office. Everyone thought it was because she was sleeping with the sales manager. (Which in fact, she was. But that's okay, because they were married.) So while the other sales reps all presumed "he's getting her all the best leads," the fact is she was nurturing the best leads herself by delighting all of her existing clients.

In fact, by the time she retired from that job, she was working exclusively from referrals.

I had the good fortune to meet some of her clients and I could instantly tell they absolutely adored her. In fact, one homeowner had just come back from a trip to South America and handed us a big bag of fresh gourmet coffee, asking us to please give it to her, with his thanks. It's almost like the homeowner was trying to bribe the sales rep!

Naturally, I met with this salesperson to discuss her success and uncover her secret. And truth be told, she wasn't twice as good or twice as smart as the other salespeople. She was just a little bit smarter when it came to managing her clients. It was just a few little things that she did here and there that set her apart from everyone else. Things such as:

  • Sending a personal, handwritten thank you note to every homeowner, regardless of whether they purchased from her or not.
  • Sending another personal note whenever someone signed a contract.
  • A month after signing the contract, she would drop by the customer's home with a swimming pool chip-and-dip set with another handwritten note that said, "Here's a little pool for you to use while you're waiting for your big pool to be finished." (She admitted that it was getting harder and harder to find that little chip and dip set. So whenever she found them, she would buy up all their inventory for herself.)
  • After the pool was completed, there was a lovely gift basket that the company prepared for ALL of the salespeople to give to their clients. (Can you believe that some of the sales reps wouldn't even bother delivering the basket to the homeowner? They would have the service team do it. Our "heroine salesperson," of course, would always hand-deliver the gift herself, because she knew this was yet one more opportunity for her to further cement her relationship with the homeowner.)  

How many times do you suppose she begged or bribed the homeowner for a referral? Never. 

What amazes me most about this story is not how successful she was, but how reluctant the other 99 percent of all salespeople are in adopting her strategy. What's so terrible about making a few small extra efforts here and there to make sure that the homeowner loves you? Like I said – she didn't work twice as hard. She just did a few extra things that set her apart from any other salesperson they'd ever met.

So now let's talk about you. How can we help you get more referrals?  Well, handwritten notes are certainly nice. But if you're looking for a silver bullet to really crank up your referrals, here's what I would suggest: 

First, set up a policy that requires each salesperson to perform a final walk-through with the homeowner when the job is complete. (Sounds simple, right? I can tell you with a high degree of certainty that if your sales people are doing this, they are in the minority.)

Next, let's script exactly what the sales rep is supposed to do in this meeting:

1) Tour the finished pool with the homeowner. You know the homeowners are bursting at the seams with pride. So ask them how they feel now that the project is done. (After all, you're the guy that helped make this happen. Enjoy the moment together.)

2) If they’re disappointed with anything, you need to talk about it now. (That doesn’t mean you have to fix it. It just means you have to listen to them and acknowledge their concerns. Let them know you care. And if possible, look for a way to make them happier with the final results.)

3) Hand them a short & simple 3-question survey and say “We're always trying to get better. Could you take just a minute to let us know how you felt about this project?" The survey could really be this simple: 

1. Did anyone or anything impress you?  

2. Were you disappointed in any way?  

3. Any other comments you would like to share with us? (Leave plenty of blank space for this.)

4) Then while they're filling out the survey, excuse yourself for a moment, go out to your truck and bring in the thoughtful gift that you picked out just for them. (A great suggestion: FatTowels. They always impress and last forever, unlike a beach ball, float or bottle of champagne. And in case you're wondering, no, I don't get any commissions from them!) 

5) Finally, if you really want to put the icing on the cake, I suggest you say something along these lines: "Hey, I'm sure you'd like to start enjoying your pool, so I'll get out of your hair. But before I go, could I get a photograph of all of you, out by your new pool?" This is just one more way to subliminally reinforce the closeness of your relationship with this homeowner. And don't forget, having 100 or so photographs of happy smiling homeowner standing next to a pool that you built is not a bad thing either.  

In wrapping up this discussion of referrals, I'd like to share one final thought with you. Remember that every new client is like a branch on a growing tree. Whether they love you or hate you, they're going to reach out and tell lots of other people all about you, for many years to come. So in this age of social media, it only makes sense to try to ensure that what they say is glowing with praise rather than blistering with condemnation.