A client referral system is a subject large enough for its own book. In this article I aim adapt your thinking to merely consider what makes an effective referral system and scrape the surface of what is involved. Referrals are absolutely NOT just a case of randomly asking anyone you make a sales presentation to if they know anyone else interested in what you sell.
Having a well thought through, pre-planned and deliberate system to encourage referrals from your clients is an aspect of marketing most company owners would agree makes a lot of sense. In spite of that, how many companies ask you for referrals after you have done business with them?
When you consider the continual flow of warm, and often pre-qualified, sales enquiries that come from the act of asking, it makes you wonder why most companies spend the majority of their sales and marketing energy on time chasing complete strangers.
Consider the following:
1. Never make it heavy going
Asking for the names and contact details of the life-long friends or family of your connections cannot be taken lightly. Neither must it come across like you’re selling [because you want something], and thus create an uncomfortable atmosphere.
You are asking for something personal so it has to be a natural and composed request. In addition, if you are dealing with a new client, it has to be carried out at the right point in the sales process.
2. Never ask too early
Asking for a referral prematurely can make you appear desperate. Additionally, it can potentially put the customer off giving you a referral as they do not want their contacts subjected to the same pressure.
How can they refer you before finding out if you’re any good? The sale must be complete and have approval from the client. You will ideally follow-up after the sale with a 'Post Sale Review' to ensure your customer is delighted. Not only does this show care and consideration, but more importantly for you, it will provide your business with invaluable feedback and the blessed opportunity to improve your product/service and how you deliver it. Ask them,
On a scale of 1-10 how likely would you be to recommend us to someone else?
Only when you have complete confirmation they would use you again [9/10 or 10/10] should you request the names of others they know who either share the same need they did, or maybe open to considering your offering in the future if the need doesn't currently exist.
3. Never feel embarrassed about asking
You should be requesting referral from a position of certainty. You know you have carried a good job and received feedback confirming that. So why would your customer not wish to help you? We all like to help people so there’s no reason to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. You’re simply helping them to help someone else.
We all make recommendations to people we know so why is this any different? The only difference is you’re instigating the referral request instead of waiting for it to happen on its own…which might weeks, months or even years. It might never occur at all. The longer is goes on the less likely it is so asking immediately after the sale concludes is the optimum time i.e. when you’re in a position of influence.
By asking for the referral you are actually doing your contact, and his referred individual, a favour. By not asking your contact can’t look as well connected or appear helpful and by not asking how else would the new prospect experience the magic you have to offer?
4. Never ever have doubts about the value you, and only you, can deliver
You should be absolutely and unequivocally be sold on the end result your company gives buyers; to the degree that you are convinced anyone fitting your ideal target client profile is going to be in far better place after doing business with you.
Have the confidence to believe that by asking for the referral you are actually doing your contact, and his referred individual, a favour [but never be cocky or smug about it of course]. By asking for a referral it allows your contact to look well connected and appear helpful, and how else is the new prospect going to experience the magic you have to offer?
If you don’t feel this self-assurance then I’d suggest you seriously need to sit down, in a quiet place for at least 1-2 hours, and re-think why you're in business and why anyone should buy from you. Take some paper out, dig deep, be honest and ask yourself the following:
- If I am your idea target client why should I buy from you over any of your competitors?
- Why should I buy at all? I could simply not buy from anyone.
- How do you add value in a way your competitors do not or cannot?
- What is it only YOU can provide your customers?
- Why do your existing long-term customers keep on coming back?
The answers will re-invigorate your core values, your unique differentiators and your USP [your Utterly Seductive Proposal] and therefore give you more reasons to ask for referrals.
Putting referrals to one side for a moment, you won't actually sell very much either unless you're completely clear about how you’re remarkable and high value. Needless to say, the referral is not going to follow when you’re acting out your business from a position of doubt.
You should have no doubts whatsoever about why making a referral to you and your business is a positive move for everyone.
If you’re not brimming with total confidence about how you can help others it will show through at every level of your business and consequently, referral request opportunities will be few and far between. You can tell when someone isn’t totally sold themselves on what they sell as they do things like calling people up with opening lines such as, “Sorry to bother you,” or, “I really appreciate your time.” It’s them who should be appreciating YOUR time. Being sold on your business is as fundamental to business success as having a USP is to marketing success.
To recap, make it easy for the person referring you on by keeping the atmosphere light, don’t ask too early, never feel embarrassed and be convinced of the added value you can deliver. Get this right and referrals can be a major part of your marketing plan.