Creating Sales From Referrals

More top tips, sly tricks, and best practices 

By Bob Mirman

You can bet your life that Groucho was right. Time is short. Why not speed up the learning curve and learn from others’ mistakes and successes?

Use Customer Evaluations to Motivate Your Staff

Yelp. Trip Advisor. Amazon. We are getting pretty used to rating our experiences. Without question, it is a lot easier to rate than be rated.

Builder staff always gets a bit uncomfortable when we first bring customer evaluations to the party. Anxiety producing, threatening. But remember the words of Alfred E. (“What, me worry?”) Neuman: “Always do what you are afraid to do.”

The reality is that customer evaluations are the most effective way to generate a rapid change in staff and vendor behavior:

• Share aggregated monthly team member ratings with all team members in that department

• Our highest scoring builders have us email a copy of the ‘Sales Associate Ranking Report’ to all sales associates each month. This is a self-motivating report: No sales person will want to see their name at the bottom of this ranking list more than once. And if they are comfortable with being the worst performer for more than a few months, termination will remind all staff of the importance you place on customer satisfaction.

• Integrate customer ratings into your performance bonus plan (email me for our white paper on the most effective comp plans)

Use Customer Feedback to Improve Trade Performance

When evaluating trade partners’ performance, who knows more about your trades’ actual performance than your homeowners? Use customers’ evaluations of each trade’s and vendor’s performance:

• Quality of workmanship for cabinets, countertops, flooring, etc.

• Post-move in service

• Mortgage and design center experience

Share customer ratings in a bi-annual meeting with trade/vendor principals. If you are an Eliant client, we email each trade/vendor principal monthly copies of their ratings/rankings.

Use RateTradesTM to easily collect “1-Minute Evaluations” of each primary trade’s performance from superintendents, service reps, and purchasing agents. Share the built-in Eliant Report Card with your trade principals.

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How to Increase Survey Response

Regardless of how you are collecting customer evaluations, it is critical to hear from as many customers as possible. Here is what our client builders are doing to average 70 percent response:

• In addition to the flyers we provide to distribute to homebuyers, and the sweepstakes drawing for survey participants, the most important driver of response rates is the manner in which you set complete expectations with each customer. Tell them all about your surveying process: How many, when, importance of their feedback, etc.

• Call customers who check the ‘Contact-Me’ box within 48-hours. Ignored customers will never complete another survey!

• Call, text, or email to thank customers for responding.

Sly Tricks

Regardless of your type of business, the #1 driver of customers’ ‘Willingness to Refer a Friend’ is your ability to keep them informed of their status (of construction; loan; repair schedule, etc.). You don’t need to have a conversation to do this, just communication.

So use a brilliant phone app: Sly Dial. This allows you to call a customer and go directly to his voice message without having to get into a long conversation.

Sometimes being sly is being smart. What, me worry?

Bob Mirman is a psychologist and founder/CEO of 33-year old Eliant, the building industry’s largest firm specializing in managing the customer experience. He may be reached at

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