Asking for referrals doesn’t come naturally to most people. Maybe just the idea of approaching your customers makes you uncomfortable. Or you assume that when customers are happy with your product, they will automatically mention you to a friend or family member. But as the saying goes, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
Even the most satisfied customers are unlikely to think of referring you on their own. They’re busy people, just like you, except they don’t have your needs uppermost in their minds—until you ask. And what’s the worst that can happen? They’ll just say, “No.”
When it comes to soliciting referrals from your customers, take a more proactive approach. Here’s how:
Always provide outstanding quality and customer service. The starting point for any referral is simply making sure your product or service is of the highest quality (and worthy of referrals).
Communicate effectively. Build trust by communicating clearly and listening closely to your customers’ needs. This feeling of trust makes them feel more comfortable referring you to others.
Don’t forget to ask. Make it part of your routine to ask for referrals at the conclusion of a project, especially when the customer experiences the full value of your product or service. Avoid making your request at the same time you submit your bill.
Be sincere and to the point. Don’t beat around the bush; state your request clearly and politely. For example: “Jane, I’m thrilled you’re so pleased with our work. I would greatly appreciate you passing our name along to anyone else you know who would be interested in our product.” (Tip: Be specific in describing what your product or service achieves, making it easy for the customer to identify what you do to others.) Or: “Jeff, do you know anyone who might benefit from [our product/service]? I’d be happy to call them and provide more information about what we do.”
Leave extra business cards. At a final meeting with your satisfied client, leave extra business cards behind—another easy way for them to pass along your contact information to people in their network.
Offer “referral incentives.” With a little nudge, some of your satisfied customers might be more willing to refer. Some businesses create incentive programs offering discounts or bonus cards to customers who provide referrals. This makes the interaction more of a “win-win” for everyone.
Tap into your networks. Try thinking beyond your immediate customer base. Consider approaching vendors, suppliers and other support services for referrals (and offer reciprocal arrangements for them). Get involved with trade associations and professional organizations, where business owners are already inclined to generate and exchange referrals.
Ask for referrals in your customer communications. Do you regularly send newsletters or emails to your customer base? Include a message like “We greatly appreciate your referrals.” It’s also a useful reminder to post on your website.
Always thank customers for their referrals. When someone takes the time and effort to pass along your name to others, be sure to let them know how much you appreciate it. Any token of appreciation will do—a gift card, hand-written letter, etc. Referrals are a big deal and should be treated as such.
We all tend to buy from businesses we hear good things about. A third-party’s recommendation bestows instant credibility on your business and what’s more valuable than that?