Recruitment & Retention: How to get better at networking to make better hires

Earning the Referral

How to make old business your best source of new business

A recent survey of painting contractors conducted by Sherwin-Williams reports that your best generator of new business remains the satisfied homeowner-customer whose house you just finished.

In other words, with all the hype about lead-generation services, websites, and social media, word-of-mouth is far more likely than any other sales tool to get you your next job. In fact, 94 percent of surveyed contractors identify past customer referrals as their top initiator of new business. And the best thing about effective word-of-mouth marketing? It’s free.

So how can you go about planting the seed for effective referrals? It starts with ensuring that your focus has been on the needs of the customer beginning with your first introduction. You’ve listened. You’ve been on time. You and your crews have arrived clean, dressed appropriately, and look professional. Keep in mind that your customers’ overall experience of having their spaces painted will have as much to do with their willingness to deliver referrals as the final result of your work.

“It’s not about just proving you are a good contractor who will produce good work,” says Archie Bartel, Sherwin-Williams Director of Sales Force Effectiveness. “Consumers expect not just good work but a good experience. If there are hiccups in the experience that will overshadow the good work that was done, then you might not be the contractor of choice if they’re asked about the experience.

“But if you’ve provided a personalized experience customized to a customer’s needs and delivered quality work with an appropriate follow-up, that’s how you ramp up word-of-mouth,”

Given the customer experience was positive and the result was satisfactory, now is the time to leave an impression of who performed the services.

“Send a card, a note, an email — maybe if it’s a bigger project, a box of chocolates or a can koozy — saying, ‘Thank you for your business,’” says Bartel. “’I hope you enjoy the work that we did and we would love the opportunity to do your next painting project.’ You’re showing that you care.”

Additionally, be sure to leave your homeowner customers with documents you may have used during the process, such as those developed via the Project Bids tool on the SW PRO+ app and the Customizable Marketing Materials (CMM) tool available with a PRO+ online account. A professional-looking bid followed up by project guides and product information sell sheets, customized with your company name, logo, and contact information, will give homeowners a lasting reminder of the contractor who performed the service. They also could be used to demonstrate the ease of the process when customers discuss the experience with friends or neighbors.

“So it’s not just a thank you,” says Bartel. “It’s a record of what was actually done, with some of the specifics. What it also does is help keep your name top-of-mind for future projects and referrals.”

Hopefully, your happy customers will share their satisfaction with friends and neighbors. And if you sense an appropriate level of their satisfaction, ask for either a written testimonial or short video that you can share on your website or social media platform.

“Leveraging social media and your happy customers can help add to word-of-mouth referral,” says Bartel. “If you can capture a clip of a customer saying, ‘ABC did a great job,’ terrific, but they have to be willing to do it.

“I’ve seen social media done successfully. It’s a different form of customer review and it’s a way of meeting potential customers in a way they want to be met. It can drive business growth for painting contractors.”

Bartel notes that effective recruitment of referrals also leads to another significant source of business for painting contractors: the repeat customer.

“It costs a lot less money and effort to create a repeat customer than to find a new customer,” says Bartel.

And that confirms, again, that the most important job you have is the one you’re working on at present. Be sure your focus is on your customer from the start, and you can help make past business your best source of new business.