After repeat clients, referrals are the bread and butter of any business. These are potential clients or customers who already have a positive opinion of you because someone they know has recommended you. In today’s society, people are used to being let down, disrespected and treated like a number so they tend to enter any business transaction in a guarded state. However, when someone tells them that you’re okay, those walls come down a bit.
Now, evaluate yourself, your employees and your business; how many referrals do you see? If the answer is small (or non-existent in some cases), you need to figure out what you’re doing wrong. You may have a lot of repeat business and your customers love you so why aren’t they recommending your product or services to others? Well, have you ever actually asked them for referrals?
Many people feel bad or uncomfortable asking their clients for referrals which really makes no sense at all. If you do everything you can to make your clients happy, you should feel confident that they would be willing to recommend you.
Build Your Confidence
Asking someone for a referral should come as natural as telling that person to have a good day. It could come out all wrong or robotic the first few times but once you realize just how easy it is and you become comfortable, words will just flow from your mouth without thinking.
Understand that most people don’t think about giving referrals, it is your responsible to plant that idea in their mind so when the right situation arises, they’re more likely to think of you and follow through.
Who Should You be Asking?
The only time you should not be asking someone for a referral is if it is going to cause conflict. If your neighbour is shopping at your home improvement store when he should be shopping at the large chain that his wife’s father manages, he is probably not likely to let it be known that he’s giving you any business. In this case, just appreciate his loyalty and let him know you’re grateful for his patronage.
Other than those types of awkward situations, you can ask for referrals from anyone as long as it doesn’t come across pushy. Starting with people you are close to and are really comfortable with first is a good way to break the ice. This could be friends, family, other parents at the park or the people you see every day at the gym. Once you get comfortable, you can start asking current and past customers to slip your name to others.
It is important to note that many people feel more comfortable asking for referrals from customers rather that people close to them, this is fine too. If you are more at ease talking to strangers, more power to you!
The Asking Process
Although you can practice asking in front of a mirror every morning before work, it should not come out fake or rehearsed. Find a way to just add it into the conversation and make eye contact (unless you are on the phone). Don’t get discouraged if they don’t have anyone in mind right away; at least the idea is there!
You may even want to start a referral program. Most car salespeople offer a cash amount, free oil change, car detail, etc., if the person the individual refers actually buys a car. Don’t be afraid to write what you’re offering for a reward on the back of a few business cards and give them to customers or drop them in the mail to previous clients.