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Are you always looking for ways to get new clients? Do you find yourself looking at every new marketing strategy out there to see what else you could do? Do you wish more people were giving you referrals and introducing you to new opportunities?
If so, you’re not alone. However, you may be looking in the wrong places.
There’s an overlooked and underutilized way to build your business that can give you an incredible advantage over your competition. And it could be the reason you’re not seeing repeat business, referrals, and introductions or steady growth.
The problem is that it’s not sexy. It’s not the coolest new thing. It’s not glamorous. It’s the tortoise in the race.
It’s what we call “referability habits.”
If the idea of winning more clients, impressing more people, and building a rock-solid reputation appeals to you, then keep reading to learn four habits that can change your life.
The Four Referability Habits
1. Show Up On Time
“You cannot respect someone but disrespect their time.” — Mokokoma Mokhonoana
Whether you like it or not, being late tells someone that your time is more important than theirs. It tells them that your first priority is yourself.
What’s worse is that it forces you to enter the room apologizing, which is a terrible way to go into any interaction. It leaves you stuck wasting time and energy bringing your social credit back up to zero—energy you could be putting toward creating a great connection.
You also never know what opportunities you might miss by being late. A chance encounter, an exciting conversation or a new connection—so much can happen when you arrive early and prepared. It’s no coincidence that the most successful clients my company has are the ones who show up early, prepared, and ready to get the most out of their experience.
If you’re someone who struggles with time management, view this as an opportunity to develop your problem-solving skills. Create systems, leverage team members, plan ahead—whatever you have to do.
With that in mind, here are my top tips for being on time (even if you’re really bad at it):
- Get help. Have a team member remind you about upcoming meetings and prompt you 15 minutes beforehand.
- Be realistic. Nothing ever works perfectly. Give yourself buffer time when traveling, no matter what Google Maps says.
- Don’t overcommit. Don’t plan back-to-back meetings, and give yourself extra time. If you have an hour for a meeting, schedule it for 45 minutes. That way even if you do go over time, you’re still ahead.
Has your business hit a growth ceiling? Your team members might just be afraid to move forward. Discover a foolproof plan for success in Shannon Waller’s book The Team Success Handbook.
2. Do What You Say
“A promise is a cloud. Fulfillment is rain.” — Proverb
It’s amazing how quickly you can develop a reputation for being unreliable. But when you always do what you say, you’re communicating to people in the most absolute terms that you’re consistent and trustworthy.
If you habitually make a lot of (well-meaning) promises and forget half of them, figure out ways to ensure that you fulfill these promises. Have a commitments sheet in a meeting, write down all of the commitments you make as you go, and then review the sheet with your client at the end to make sure that neither of you has missed anything. Alternatively, you can have a team member remind you of what was agreed upon after meetings.
Most importantly, know when to say yes and when to say no. It’s much better to be honest than idealistic, especially when other people’s time and energy are involved.
3. Finish What You Start
“Commitment is an act, not a word.” — Jean-Paul Sartre
This is a tough one for many leaders and entrepreneurs. You probably have more ideas than you know what to do with and have a much easier time starting projects than finishing them. But that just means you need to get smart about your processes and your teamwork.
Have an idea? Write it down—immediately.
Committed to a project? Give yourself a non-negotiable deadline.
From there, figure out what activates your creativity. Are you someone who gets inspired by collaboration, or do you live for the stress of a looming deadline? Find your motivators and use them.
The other trick is to find someone who loves finishing your projects. If you’re a starting person, find a finishing person. Use them. Love them.
4. Say Please And Thank You
“Showing gratitude is a free way to make people feel their value has gone up and they feel completely understood.” — Dan Sullivan
You may be surprised by what a little appreciation can do for you and your business. By saying please and thank you, you identify yourself as someone who is respectful and appreciative of others’ contributions. We like referring people who appreciate the effort we go to on their behalf and don’t refer those who take us for granted.
But it has to be genuine. It has to be sincere. Otherwise, it’s worse than saying nothing at all.
These referability habits can do more to differentiate you over the long haul than any flashy, short-term strategy. And just as important, not doing them can put your business in jeopardy. After all, who do you want to do business with?
Put these four referability habits into practice, and have your team do the same, and your company’s credibility, integrity, and reputation can market itself.
Here’s a bonus referability habit: Be appropriate—to the people around you and to the needs of the situation. Showing up to a gala event in jeans just doesn’t work. No matter how professionally you speak or act, failing to miss important social cues can still leave you with a negative reputation.