How to increase your referrals by improving meaningful relationships with your clients

7 min read
Discover FBDA founder Nicky Sehgal's secret strategy for making your referrals skyrocket.

Discover FBDA founder Nicky Sehgal's secret strategy for making your referrals skyrocket.

Fitness Business Development Academy Founder and TeamUp friend Nicky Sehgal is sharing his secrets on increasing referrals through your relationships with your clients that he teaches his customers.

Keep reading below to check out his guide and tips to learn how you can implement this very useful strategy in your own business this year!

Two women in workout gear. One woman is giving the other woman an apple.

Growing your fitness business through referrals is an effective strategy as it takes far less energy and resources than other ways. However, the mistake most fitness businesses make is that they use the "hope referral method" (basically hoping clients refer) rather than specific strategies that "manufacture referrals".

If you are to grow your business through referrals, then you must "manufacture referrals". Otherwise, the rate of referrals will be too slow for continuous business growth.

Here at the FBDA, the clients we see that are the most successful at "manufacturing referrals" are the ones that are more focused on building meaningful relationships with their current clients.  As a by-product of these relationships, they're able to generate a steady flow of high-quality referrals that keeps their business growing.

How do you manufacture referrals?

One of the systems we teach our clients to use is our "One From One Referral Game"

One from one referral system ad by the Fitness Business Development Academy.

I developed this when I started on the gym floor with zero marketing and sales skills. I had to generate clients somehow, so my goal was to generate one referral from every client I had. I later took this system and taught my trainers to use it while growing my PT studio.

It worked both times.

The great thing about using this system is that it forces you to improve your service and the relationships you have with your clients for it to work.

So how does the "One From One Referral Game" work?

There are 7 points to this system, with points 1 to 5 being the work that needs to be done first to create more meaningful relationships with your clients.

If you want to watch the full video training on this system with downloadable tools, you can access it here.

Point 1 - Create the right mindset

You must be okay with both success and failure; losing is all part of this game and the game of business in general. Many coaches and fitness business owners struggle with the rejection, so they back off and stop taking the necessary actions.

As with everything in business, you fail your way to success, so adopt this mindset from the get-go. Keep this fun, gamify it and keep score.

A hand-drawn mindset chart.

Point 2 - Discover “Why Clients Wouldn’t Refer To You”

Yep, you read this right - you must know why clients wouldn't recommend you before you can figure out what to do to get them to refer to you. Think of this drill as learning how to handle sales objections. You know they are coming, so it's better to be prepared and skilled enough to handle them.

Here are some common reasons why clients don't refer:

  • They haven’t seen results/value for money yet
  • Your service hasn’t met their expectations
  • They feel a little embarrassed that they had to hire a professional to help them
  • Their friends and family may take the mickey out of them for spending so much money on your services
  • They don't have any friends and family
  • They don't know how or who to refer

It’s up to you to discover why each client hasn’t recommended you and then prepare them, so they understand how to refer to you.

Point 3 - Profile every client to the best of your ability

This is where you really start to understand your clients and build deeper relationships and improve your service for them.

Create a table like below and list the following:

  1. Every client you have

  2. Potential groups of people they can refer

  3. What your referral strategy is (this is how you manufacture referrals)

  4. What service improves you need to make

  5. What referrals you have won based on this work

After listing every client, talk through each one with your team and pinpoint how you intend to manufacture a referral from every single client. This is where the magic starts to happen as you soon realise that even though you think your service is good, you can be and need to be better! This will up your whole game, and you will get paid for doing so with referrals.

A spreadsheet to help you profile your clients for your referral program.

Point 4 - Up your game using the “Ow To How To Wow” worksheet

At the end of the day, you're a service business. Your aim is to provide the best service possible to every client.

The problem is that many fitness business owners tend to overestimate how good their service really is. There are a few ways to get around this - the best way would be to have an outside party come in and audit your business, or you can self-audit with your team using the "Ow to How To Wow” worksheet.

It's super important that you do this with your team and maybe a few trusted clients, as you may not see what you need to see. Here is what to do (see image below for example):

  • List out every component of your service
  • Then list out if each part is an “Ow”, meaning it's hurting your service; if it is a “How”, meaning this is how it should be done, or if it is a “Wow,” which means it is exceptional, and clients rave about it.

By moving each component of your service up the “Ow to How to Wow” chain, you will be improving your service, building more meaningful relationships, retaining more clients, and generating more referrals.

FBDA's Ow How Wow worksheet.

Point 5 - Cultivate the relationship

The coach-client relationship should go way beyond just taking them through a workout. To build more meaningful relationships and generate referrals, here are some points on what to do:

  • Listen to your clients, help them, and they will help you - go that extra mile for them, and they will refer you like crazy
  • Turn up to their events, these will be full of potential referable clients
  • Help them with their charities
  • Create systems to ensure they get birthday cards, achievement shoutouts, and special occasion cards
  • Refer clients to them, especially if they also run their own businesses
  • Run your own events and invite clients to bring friends

A illustration of a person recommending a product or service to a friend.

Point 6 - Build your arsenal of referral tools

I can't stress this point enough…

You will need to help coach clients on how and who to refer to you and provide tools and pathways for them to do so.

No one wants to look stupid by referring the wrong type of client! Most start here and don’t do the deep work that’s involved in points 1-5. Manufacturing referrals will work much better if you complete points 1-5 first. Here are some examples:

Pathway Offers

  • Christmas card promotion
  • Bring a friend week (limit this to one week per month)
  • Free or paid trial
  • Test drive workout
  • Fitness MOT / Assessment (one of my personal favourites)
  • Free workshops (Nutrition, Abs)

Educating/coaching clients on how to refer

  • Email marketing / social media communication on the benefits of training with friends
  • Share success stories to list
  • Speaking to them after sessions on how and who to refer

Referral rewards programs

  • Two weeks of next month’s payment
  • Thank you lotto card
  • Beauty treatment/gift

Point 7 - Play every day

Every day you have the opportunity to just show up and do your work or play the game of business to win! Playing this game means you will have days where you win and others when you lose, but if done consistently 99% will win and build better relationships with the clients, generating more referrals in the process.

To watch the video training on the "One From One Referral Game" and download the workbook so you can implement it into your business go to this page.

Nicky Sehgal is the founder and head coach at the Fitness Business Development Academy. With over 21 years of experience in the fitness industry, both working for gyms and running his own fitness businesses, he created the Fitness Business Development Academy to provide a platform for fitness business owners to learn and develop the skills required to build, grow and sustain their business. Click here for details on how to get in touch with Nicky and his team.

Thanks for reading!

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