What’s better than getting a quality referral from one of your happy customers or associates? Seriously. It gives you more business opportunities, it solidifies the relationship you have with the person that referred you, and, golly, it just feels really good. If referrals are a home run in every way, then why aren’t we deliberate about asking for them. Or, why aren’t we better at asking for referrals? Perhaps we just assume that our reputation for quality work will send our cheerleader customers to the top of the mountain to profess your glorious name to all who can hear. Or maybe a little referral incentive will motivate our customers enough to take time out of their day to sell your services to someone they know. What we secretly hope is that our passive-aggressive methods to produce more referrals will be enough to create endless opportunities for new business. This outcome is very rare because it takes a substantial Wow! factor in your products, services, price, & customer experience to make your existing customers want to help you find more customers.
The problem you likely have when asking for referrals is that you think it feels awkward, you don’t want to put your customers on the spot and you don’t want to appear as desperate. That makes sense, but here’s the thing; when you create a great customer experience for the right customer, that customer takes pleasure in giving you a referral because it makes them a hero to both you and the person they are referring. This sensation is actually more rewarding than some of the modest financial incentives we offer. Don’t get me wrong, if money moves the meter for your customers and referrals, by all means, do it. But if you want an approach that has more substance, creates better referrals AND builds relationships with your existing customers, try this 5-step process.
- Focus on your best clients – It is certainly ok and admirable to ask any and everyone for a referral, but most of us don’t have that time or energy. Instead, concentrate on the clients that have been most pleased with your work. It will make the conversation less awkward for both you and your customer. They are also the most likely to give you a referral.
- Ask when the customer is happiest – You don’t have to wait until the end of your project to ask for a referral. In fact, at what point in your process are your customers the most excited about what you or your product does? That is the absolute best time to ask. Don’t wait or hesitate. Get them in the moment.
- Be specific – The worst thing you can do is make a general ask for a referral. Be specific about the kinds of customers you want that your customer knows. It can be a specific person, company, industry, or whatever, but the more specific you are, the more likely you are to get the referral and the more likely that referral will be of better quality. Best of all, if they can’t help you with that specific referral, they may offer you a contingency referral. In other words, “I don’t know anyone that fits your referral description, but there is someone else that came to my mind…”
- Ask in person – Always ask for your referral in person. Never in an email or a text. It is too easy for customers to miss or ignore. You already have a relationship with them, so give them a call and ask for a referral or discuss it with them the next time you see them in person.
- Request introductions and information – Don’t leave a referral request open-ended if you can help it. Ask specifically to be introduced to their contact either in person or email. You can and should also ask for that referral’s contact information. Make sure you also ask for permission to contact the referral and make a reference to the customer that is referring you.