- Pick the right time
Ask for a referral when the client is feeling positive about your product or service. Ask them when they feel they owe you a favour, e.g. you may have gone the extra mile or helped them in a way that was more than what was expected. Ask while you are still actively involved and your product or service is fresh in their minds.
- Offer incentives
You can motivate existing clients by offering monetary rewards or discounts, or perhaps offer a value-add to the product or service you are already providing your customer with. Incentives can also be provided in the form of upgrades, service credits or free gifts. If you offer the incentive for the next time they use your service or product, you are simultaneously encouraging return business. Make sure the incentive suits your business.
- Target your most influential customers
These are people whose opinions carries weight and whose referrals will probably have the biggest success. Do your research and find those of your clients who have the best networking ability; or look at clients connected to many related fields, e.g. someone in the medical field who liaises with different professionals in different but related industries.
- Have a system
Make sure that asking for referrals is built into your sales cycle. Make sure that you ask at the right time – you can perhaps ask for the referrals when invoicing a client or when doing a post-sale follow-up. Make it easy for clients to give you referral leads on your website, provide a form they can fill in to rate your service, or relay instructions on how to rate you on consumer evaluation websites.
Doing a great job and getting positive feedback from a happy client does not automatically mean that they will refer someone to you or spontaneously send you referral leads. When someone compliments you on a job well done, thank them and immediately follow up with a referral request – they are already enthusiastic about your product or service, so they will be open to suggesting others who might benefit from it.
- Keep in touch
Regularly touch base with your current and past customers, and remind them that you would appreciate referrals from them. Be honest and tell them how much of a difference their referrals would make to you – people are more open to doing something for you if they are reminded of what you did for them and when they understand the importance of the task at hand.
- Say thank you
While it is nice to be able to give a reward for referrals, it is not always possible or appropriate. Yet a simple “Thank you” may be more powerful than it sounds, so write a note or call your customer to thank them for the referral. People have an inherent need to feel appreciated, so the chances are high that they would be open to providing you with referrals again in future.
- Create opportunities
Use your business activities to create opportunities for asking for referrals without it having to come out of the blue. You can ask for referrals when preparing marketing materials or campaigns by adding a statement that referrals are welcome, when doing a post-sales or post-service follow-up, on completion of a job, when updating a database or perhaps during certain times of the year like at the beginning or end of the year you could hold a straightforward referral blitz and contact your entire database telling them upfront that it is a referral blitz and asking them if they have anyone you can contact.
- Make it part of the deal
When you first meet with a client or customer and present your value offering, make referrals part of the deal. An example would be: “If I do a great job – and I will – will you agree to give me five referral leads?” Your honesty and confidence will impress the client and you will have your referrals.
Finally, remember to follow up on the referrals, otherwise a hot lead will become a cold call. Build relationships with your clients – maybe they do not have leads now, but somewhere in the future they will refer you. Remember that Customer Relationship Management is key!
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