In my past number of years in Business Coaching, I have mentored a number of clients on the successful process of “asking for referrals”. Be very careful here, the wrong method of asking for referrals can jeopardize your present and future relationship with your client or customer.
Two of the wrong strategies I have seen are:
1- “Begging” for a referral?
2- Assuming that you earned the right to ask.
The reality here is asking for referrals makes EVERYONE feel awkward. And asking for referrals usually results in a turndown, or a delay. I have had a number of times a delay went on for months.
A referral is the second strongest lead in sales. The first is an unsolicited referral.
Earning the Right . . .
Referrals are not asked for – referrals are EARNED. So, how do you earn the right to ask for a referral? The right to ask for a referral is earned when you have created an exceptional customer services and have truly gone above and beyond the ‘normal’ business relationship. Once you surpass a ‘normal’ business relationship, you almost become more “friends” that customer/client relationship. Remember that friends don’t let friends down! Create a formalized process, which ‘touches’ all your clients or customers, and elevates your customers from . . .
Suspect > Prospect > Customer > Member > Advocate > Raving Fan
By elevating your customers to Raving Fans, you get referrals without asking for them. So, in your business or practice how many Raving Fans do you have? Do you have a method to stay in touch with your Raving Fans and all other categories above? Do you have a process to arrange for the introduction of the referral by the Raving Fan?
Give to Get
There are all kinds of names applied to the process of “giving” a referral to a customer- for example “pay it forward”. However, you are kidding yourself if you expect something in return.
Here is an email I received . . . “Sam, I can’t seem to ever get any referrals nor get my sales people to get referrals! We go back to the customer after the sale, we give them an appreciation gift and ask them for referrals and they say they don’t know anybody or don’t think anybody else can afford it? What do I do?”
The first mistake here is thinking that by bringing a gift to a new customer, that alone deserves a referral. Asking for referrals in this manner is not only a poor practice; it’s also rude and embarrassing. Before asking for a referral, ask yourself:
1- What have I earned so far?
2- Have I done anything besides just make a sale?
3- On a scale of 1-10, how strong is this relationship?
4- If I asked for a referral right now would it feel awkward?
5- Why would this customer give me a referral? If you can’t think of a reason, neither can your customer.
6- What can I do, that will get me where I want to be in the future?
Putting a strategy in place:
1. Do you have a documented referral process?
2. What are the value considerations that need to be (consistently) taken to earn referrals?
3. Do you deliver exceptional service? Are you exceptional, professional, pro-active, friendly, trusting, helpful, and give positive responses?
4- Are you available by email, telephone, fax, or text messaging (or, are you hiding behind the gatekeeper)? Make it as easy as possible to do business with everyone in your company 24/7/365.
5- Do you consistently provide exceptional value?
6- Have you created an email magazine, a White Paper, and a blog with content that helps customers? Where is your business Facebook page where you post positive and helpful information and allow for customer comments?
7- Paying it forward by giving a referral to a new or old customer.
8- Develop TRUST and grow the relationship slowly over time. Create your long-term value plan, and execute it consistently. Go ‘old school’ here and send a Thank You card, that is handwritten and delivered via USPS.
DON’T ASK FOR A REFERRAL IF YOU HAVEN’T EARNED THE RIGHT FOR A REFERRAL. There’s a powerful message here. It’s about having a philosophy of giving, without the expectation of getting anything in return. This philosophy, will give you fulfillment without regret, remorse, or resentment.
Give to give. Don’t give to get.