Customer referrals are a powerful way to build your business. Getting these referrals involves almost no costs and often leads to an easier sale (because they trust the person who referred them). It’s also a great testimony to the quality of service you provided the referring customer. By learning to ask for them effectively, you can see a huge boost in your career.
Developing a strong referral pipeline is critical in professions well beyond the “traditional” salesperson. Even if you don’t have “sales” in your job title, referrals are important. They matter because:
- Professionals like attorneys or accountants need new clients. Want to become a partner in your firm? Being a rainmaker is a good way to do it.
- Entrepreneurs, small business owners, and start-ups can only survive if they have new customers, and the low-cost of referrals is pretty attractive to cash-strapped businesses.
- Solopreneur service providers need new clients but don’t have a lot of time to focus on sales. Wouldn’t it be nice to spend less time marketing and more time providing your actual service?
Because referrals are so valuable, people spend a lot of time worrying about how to get more. Unfortunately, they often spend more time worrying than actually asking. That’s because most people think they should only ask once. Or worse, they hope that customers will just offer up referrals without having to be asked.
In reality, you can keep asking for referrals over the course of your relationship with your customer!
Below are 7 ways you can ask for referrals throughout your sales process. Some of these are direct questions. Some of these are ideas on how you can plant seeds to let the customer know that referrals are important. All of them are important.
1. Mention referrals right away.
When you first meet a potential customer, let them know that referrals are a big part of your business. It builds credibility in you and your company, and it plants the seed for asking later.
“We’ve built a lot of our business on word-of-mouth referrals, which says a lot about the quality of our service. It allows us to spend less time looking for new clients and more time taking care of our customers.”
2. Drop a third-person story.
Third-person stories are powerful sales tools because they reinforce that you get referrals from your clients. The science shows that we feel more comfortable taking action when we are doing something that others have already done. Letting your customer know that referrals are something that others have given can start a positive feedback cycle.
“Bill Jones over at Company XYZ really liked the new features that we put in the Service Plan 5000. It’s actually why he recommended us to his colleagues over at Company ABC.”
3. Ask when the customer signs the dotted line.
Your new customer is going to be most confident when they are committing to your offer. They have just gone from being a prospect to a customer and they’ve connected their future with yours. It’s also the first time to directly ask for referrals.
“I’m really excited that you are going to work with us and I know you’re going to love it. I’m always looking for new people to help. Who else do you know that might be a good person to talk to about this?”
4. Ask for referrals again at the time of delivery.
The next time your customer is going to be excited and happy is when they get their new product or service. Think about how you felt the last time you had a package delivered to you – I’m sure you were eager to open the box.
If there isn’t a specific time when they are take delivery, time your next referral “ask” when they start receiving the benefits.
“I hope you are getting what you need from your new widget/service. Do you know anyone else who is having the same challenges that you were who you would feel comfortable introducing me to?”
5. Call the customer one week after the receive it.
But don’t ask for referrals here! Just check in with the client and see how everything is going. Sometimes, not asking for referrals is just as powerful. Especially when you are positioning yourself as the go-to person for the client (which you should be doing anyway).
“I just wanted to call and make sure that everything is going as well as you expected it to be. Is there anything else I can help you with?”
6. Check in with them one month later.
This should be another quick check in, to make sure everything is going well. It’s also a great place to talk about what a good referral would be, because they have had the chance to really experience what they invested in and can mentally connect it with others in their network. You can even ask for a very specific referral type here.
“I’m glad everything is going well. I wanted to ask a quick favor. I know that you are really enjoying the services we provide, and I was wondering who else in your industry you know that I should talk to about it. I’ve also found that other Directors of Widgets are good people to talk to – do you know any that you might be able to connect me with?
7. Create an on-going contact program.
You can reach out to your customers monthly, quarterly, every six months, or every year, depending on your industry and the amount of client contact you normally have. You’ve built relationships to move them from prospects to customers. Why drop the ball now?
This is a great opportunity to ask if they have met any new contacts that could benefit from what you sell, or if someone in their sphere of influence has new needs.
“If you run across someone that you think I could help, feel free to introduce us.”
Your best customers are a great source of great prospects, if you spend the time to stay in touch and continue to build your relationship with them.
There are many chances to continue to ask for referrals from your clients. As the saying goes, “hope is not a sales strategy”. So stop hoping for referrals and start asking. And then keep asking!