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50 Ways to Grow a Business – Part 5

We’ve reached out fifth installment of our ’50 Ways to Grow a Business’ series. We hope that you have found useful takeaways which apply to your business model. If you missed part four, follow the link.

Next up is part five, which discusses incentives, referrals, improving your reception area and more to grow a business.

20)   Incentivise your team

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Most incentive programmes are sales-oriented because it is relatively straight-forward to measure outcomes. Other incentive programmes may be appropriate for activities such as personnel recruitment, cost containment or new ideas. Forward-thinking companies use incentives for their entire team to keep everyone focused and motivated.

When working on goal-setting, remember the SMART acronym:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

Structure your incentives around whatever your team members find most rewarding. This may be cash but merchandise, gift certificates or travel may be even more effective.

Set your incentives so that they encourage teamwork – it’s important that most people win. Make the time frame short enough so that team members can visualise the end result.

21) Develop referrals and introductions to grow a business

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Referrals are crucial while you grow a business – there’s no better way of building sales than by increasing referrals. They are not only the number one source of new business; they are the leading source of the best new business.

People like to make referrals – when we make a wise purchasing decision, we want to share it with others as a way of validating our own good judgment and good fortune.

To get referrals, you have to ask for them! If you are talking to one of your customers you might say, “As you know, we do a lot of work with medium-sized companies like yours and show them how to manage the cost of raw materials. If you know of anyone you think we can help, would you be willing to introduce us?” Almost every customer will say yes. Not all of them will follow through – but you’ve planted the seed!

Step 1 is getting people to agree to recommend you.

Step 2 is making sure they have the materials needed to facilitate the process. Give them copies of your firm brochures, newsletters and specialty booklets. When you do, include a note thanking them for their help. Then, follow up with periodic letters and new marketing materials. In addition, make sure that everyone in your organisation carries business cards and that you have a great website.

Stimulating Introductions

At the end of each month ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Are all my customers happy?
  2. Have I given all my customers enough TLC (tender loving care)?
  3. Should I talk to each of my customers?
  4. Have I asked each of my customers for an introduction?

Here are six strategies for developing more and better referrals (you may prefer the term introductions – it sounds more professional and less intimidating):

  1. Provide your customers with a “WOW” experience
  • Let your customers know up front that you will be asking for introductions. Explain how your business depends on positive word-of-mouth and specific recommendations
  • When asking for introductions, be sensitive to timing. It takes practice and experience to do it effectively. The best time to ask, naturally, is when you have just completed a project or assignment. Ask for a testimonial letter – one that he or she would feel comfortable with you sending to new contacts. Also, ask your customers to provide a review of your firm on review websites (such as Today it is the search engine of choice for many individuals and many different businesses. If you’ve never used it, log on and put in the name of your company to see what people are saying about you!


Saying that you’re “BUSY” is the quickest way to dry up referrals. Using the “B” word reinforces any reservations people may have about your level of service and discourages them from sending you more business.

If you appear unable to handle the work you have now, why would anyone want to send you more? When you’re asked “how are you doing?” or “how’s business?” the answer is “Business is great…and we’re looking for more!”

  • Tell your customers exactly what you want them to do and describe the kinds of new customers you are looking for. Then discuss people they might know who meet these criteria. Your customer may offer to make a contact. Ask for a commitment, and let him or her know you will be in touch regarding the opportunity
  • When you do receive a referral, make sure to say “thank you”, whether or not the referral results in new business. Set up a system so that every referral is properly acknowledged
  • When you get a new customer as a result of an introduction, find a special way of thanking your referral source. Send a bottle or perhaps even a case of wine, a bouquet of flowers or a plant. The most memorable thank you’s will be specific to the individual such as:
  • Concert tickets to a favourite band or orchestra
  • A gift certificate to a favourite shop
  • Dinner for 2 at a favourite restaurant

There is no better way to grow a business than through referrals. Like you, most business owners and professionals are looking for new business. If you want people to make referrals to you, find a way to do the same for them.

How can we get more referrals?

Here’s a sample “thank you” letter for a referral:

Dear Gail,

Thank you for referring Victoria Smith to our firm.   We always welcome new customers and when they are introduced by a valued individual like yourself it makes it all the more special.   We met with Victoria this week and look forward to helping her.
Again, thank you for the introduction!  
Yours sincerely

Tip to grow a business: This will be particularly effective if it is handwritten on a “thank you” card. Enclosing a gift card to a popular retailer will make your “thank you” special and different.

Customers make most of their judgments about you and your business within the first few minutes of meeting you or your business representative.


Team members should always be properly dressed – establish clear guidelines as to what is acceptable, even if your company does not have a specific dress code. Customers have expectations as to how a representative of a particular business or profession should be dressed – this one factor is of disproportionate importance, as documented many years ago by John Molloy (1988) in Dress for Success. And remember, it’s always easier to dress down than it is to dress up.


There’s no substitute for enthusiasm as you grow a business. A customer wants to know that you and your team are 100% committed to your products and services while they grow a business. Train your team members so that when they are asked what they do, they respond with – “I work for the best __________in town/in the ________ industry. For example, “I work for the best consulting firm in the forest products industry.”


This is achieved when members of your team demonstrate:

  • Product and service knowledge
  • Acceptance of responsibility
  • Competence
  • Dependability
  • Responsiveness
  • Active listening
  • Keeping promises

At this point, it may be advisable to do an overall “image audit” of your company. Here’s a checklist:

  • Team member dress
  • Enthusiasm
  • Professionalism
  • Business cards (everyone should have one)
  • Company branding
  • Physical appearance of the business
  • Product packaging
  • Stationery
  • Signs
  • Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Be a Good Listener!

When you meet with a customer or prospective customer (particularly if you haven’t met them before) ask:

  • If they are happy to answer some questions
  • “Open questions”, i.e. those that require more than a yes/no answer
  • For clarification or elaboration of a customer’s statement
  • If it’s OK to take written notes – this tells the customer that what he/she is saying is important
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Don’t argue or contradict
  • Repeat back the customer’s goals, issues or concerns to reinforce and clarify


22) Answer the phone!

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Customers talk to your receptionist more often than anyone else in the business, yet most receptionists have less than ten minutes of telephone training! Check with your phone provider, as most of them run training programmes on receptionist skills. Ask friends to call your office and report back on their experience. Then have a company session to make sure that everyone answers the phone in the same friendly manner. For example, “good morning, Angel & Company, this is Carol. How may I help you?”

Call your office outside of office hours and listen to your recorded message. Is the message upbeat and friendly and consistent with your company’s values? Is it current and up-to-date?

Some firms pay their receptionist a bonus for each new customer appointment, just to emphasise the importance of how the phone is answered when someone calls your business.

How can you improve your call handling?

23) Make your reception area special

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Your reception area communicates the message you want to convey about your business, so make it special!

Here are three ideas:

Idea 1

Create a slideshow

Install a plasma screen in your reception area and run a 5-10 minute PowerPoint slideshow. This gives you an opportunity to make people aware of your complete range of products and services.

Idea 2

Create a menu

Instead of the typical “Can I get you a cup of coffee?” let’s be different. Present your customers with a menu of available drinks, and if you are serving coffee, be sure it’s the best – there’s nothing like a “proper” cup of coffee.

Idea 3

Create a theme

When you’re deciding what to put on the walls of your reception area, have a consistent theme. Anything unusual, particularly if it’s related to the interests of the owners, will get people’s attention.

  • Framed photographs of what your street looked like 100+ years ago – readily available from your local historical society
  • A collection of football shirts or autographed photos
  • A selection of paintings by one of your customers
  • Pictures of your company’s owners as children, or doing their favourite recreational activity

Your reception area may be the only part of your business that a visitor sees, so make it interesting and different.

How can you improve your reception?

Get in touch with Cardens to grow a business

We are committed to providing fantastic customer service for every client, and your feedback helps us make that possible. We know what our clients need from us to grow a business, and we can do the same for your business too.

Please contact us if you need further advice, have any questions about our services, or would like a free consultation or a fixed quote.


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