How many times have you heard or read this advice?
“If you want more referrals, ask for them.”
It’s good advice when you consider that providing referrals is not usually on your clients’ minds. But that advice is also incomplete; simply asking doesn’t always give you the results you need.
For one thing, you need to ask for referrals in a courteous way. Can you imagine marching up to a client or calling him out of the blue and immediately asking for names of people they know? That wouldn’t get you very far.
The best referrals will come because people want to help you. That requires less of a sales approach and more of a relationship. Here are a few ways to improve your approach to get more referrals:
The best time to ask for a referral (or anything else, for that matter) is when clients are feeling good. If you catch them right after they have dealt with rush hour traffic, when they are a little worked up, you might want to wait until the next time you speak to ask for referrals. Judge how the conversation is going and be respectful enough to forgo your request if you caught your client at a bad time.
Soon after you complete a transaction is usually the best time to ask for referrals, because you—and the service you provided—are fresh in your clients’ minds. But keep in mind that clients may only be willing to provide referrals if they had a good experience with you, so make sure you provide a quality client experience.
Give before you receive.
One of the best ways to tone down the salesy-ness of your referral requests is to do something nice for your client first. That way it’s not a one-sided relationship—it’s two people helping each other out.
One of the reasons “American Lifestyle” magazine is valuable to our customers is because it’s seen not as marketing but as a gift that demonstrates the mailer’s appreciation of the relationship he or she has with the recipient.
Save the referral request for last.
Most people are happy to help you out, but they don’t want to feel used. So, you’ll typically get a better response if you have a genuine conversation with them before anything else. This is where your people skills come into play. Use information from a previous conversation as a way to break the ice.
For instance, if the last time you spoke, they were getting ready for a vacation, start by asking about it. Haven’t spoken to them in a while? Here is a whole list of great ice breakers that the ALM staff came up with. If all else fails, you can just say that you’re checking in to see how everything is going.
The more rapport you can build during your conversation, the more they will want to help you out—you get the idea.
Show your appreciation.
Certainly, you want to thank anyone who does provide you with new leads. But even if they don’t, make sure you express your gratitude. You never know when their parent/sibling/neighbor/coworker will ask for a recommendation from them. Let your clients know that you appreciate the relationship you have developed with them by continuing to follow up with them.
Just because they don’t have anyone to introduce you to at that time, doesn’t mean that they won’t in the future.
You don’t have to be intimidated about asking for referrals. As long as you do it the right way, most people will be happy to oblige.