So many times I hear from people who are all set mustering up the courage to have a sales conversation, only to get stuck to go one small step further and ask for a referral. That is, ask for an introduction to someone in your client’s or associate’s network that could benefit from the product or service you provide. It’s an odd phenomenon too since most people consider landing the sale the hard part.
What happens is that we often consider asking for a referral lumped into what it takes to get a client, so there are a lot of the same mental pushbacks when it comes to asking for referrals as asking for sales. But not asking for a referral leaves a lot of business on the table, and it is one of the easiest ways to grow your customer base. If you ask for referrals correctly, you can see an almost instant increase in sales numbers!
Let’s review the top 4 tips for successfully asking for a business referral.
- Work with customers who already love you. It doesn’t matter how large or small your contact list is, you should always with asking people who have already received a product or service from you and have had a positive experience. These are the people that will most likely be willing to give a recommendation solely for the purpose of helping you grow your business.
- Getting the timing right. You don’t want to jump right into asking for a referral the minute you first start working with a new customer or meeting a new associate. It can feel too much like “please do this thing because I want something from you!” People don’t like feeling pressure in these situations–so make sure that asking about referrals comes naturally after building up rapport.
On the other hand though, you don’t want to wait until your work with a client is 100% completed before asking for a referral either. If you wait until the end of a project, the built-in reason you have to be communicating with them evaporates, making the whole thing feel less natural. The next thing you know you find yourself in the uncomfortable position of following up with folks for the sole purpose of “well, did you think of anyone for me yet?” and that seldom feels good.
- Be prepared. The ideal moment to ask for a referral can come without warning so you’re going to want to know what you are going to say. The process is a lot easier if you are ready to make the request when it is part of a conversation you are already having.
For example, maybe your client has just given you positive feedback about an experience. This creates the perfect opportunity to present the request by prefacing how great it has been to work with them, move on to say the outcome was amazing, then add, “do you know of someone else who would benefit from this outcome? I would love to talk to them.” Then go back to having your normal conversations with these people.
In other words – be prepared but don’t feel like you need to make it a big deal.
- Don’t get hung up on only asking current clients for a referral. If it is time to get more new customers in your pipeline, it is perfectly acceptable to reach out to past happy clients. After you have legitimately reconnected, remind them of the positive outcomes of your work together and any specific obstacles you were able to overcome. Then ask if there’s anybody they know that would be a good fit to recreate that situation for themselves! People tend to hang out with people who are just like them so if they liked working with you, odds are their friends will also! While it takes a little more work than if the client is current, the benefits of talking to past clients should not be ignored.
A good referral program is valuable to your entrepreneurial business. In my own business, I have one more golden rule that I think is valuable and not at all difficult to achieve and that is to give referrals before you get them. When you are known as someone who gives referrals it becomes its own credential, you become worthy of receiving one based on your willingness to give one.
If you’re looking for an easy way to grow your business, asking for referrals should definitely be part of your sales plan. People are much more likely to buy products or services from people they know and trust, which is why it is such a powerful way to expand your business.