Generating new leads is a must if businesses want to continually gain new business. But it’s also a big challenge for most sales reps. It’s not easy getting new leads, month after month, so that sales reps can hit their sales quotas.
This is why getting business referrals is almost a godsend, especially if it’s a referral that actually converts into an actual customer.
But how do you gain new referrals? The simple answer is to “just ask.” That is true. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and you lose nothing and might even gain something. But there’s a caveat in there: a referral is basically a recommendation. A client will not be referring someone if he isn’t pleased with your product and customer service.
So the first rule in asking for referrals is to to make sure that you are in a position to ask. That means you’ve given the customer a great product and that you’ve added value to your customer’s life and/or business. Make sure you’ve also provided customer with excellent customer service—before, during and most especially after the sale. It’s always best to exceed your customer’s expectations.
If you’re confident that you’ve provided both and that customer is happy with your product and service, start working on getting referrals from customers following these proven strategies.
1. Ask for an introduction, not a buyer
Yes, ask, but let’s be clear about what you’re asking for. Don’t ask your customer for another customer. Just ask to be introduced. You’re probably thinking, “Isn’t that the same thing?” The difference is that asking for an introduction is a lot more easygoing, and doesn’t apply pressure on the customer as much. The customer will most likely even give you more names because he won’t be too caught up with thinking of who will most likely buy from you. It’s your job to qualify the leads, not your customer’s, so just ask for names and for introductions.
The introduction method will be completely up to your customer: via email, phone, or—if you’re lucky—in person. And this leads us to number two…
2. Be ready for referrals
When a customer does the referral, make sure you’re ready, whatever the circumstance is. If it’s via email, make sure you have something to send the customer when you reply. It can be a link to a relevant (to the new prospect) case study, blog post, or white paper on your website. If it’s a phone call, make sure you have your spiel ready.
3. Show appreciation first
Acknowledge the relationship first, ask second. Thank your customer for their business before you ask for referrals. You can also be generous when expressing your appreciation and send cards or small tokens.
4. Don’t ask immediately after a sale
Don’t ask soon after your customer signs the dotted line. Give your customer a chance to really experience your product. A good timeframe would be three to four weeks after the sale. But you don’t want to do it later than four weeks. You want to ask for a referral when the positive experience is still fresh in the customer’s memory.
You also don’t want to keep asking, and asking constantly. Choose moments for when to ask for referrals. (See next.)
5. Recognize the moment for a referral
Recognize the opportunity for when asking for referrals makes sense. It could be in response to a client email expressing their satisfaction. Or in a sales call, when you’re getting updates from client and the feedback is generally positive. As the saying goes, strike while the iron is hot.
You can incentivize with a referral program. If a client makes a successful referral, they get a reward from you. Choose a reward that adds more value to the customer’s life and/or business, whether it’s a month off their subscription, a voucher, a gift certificate, discount, etc.
7. Give referrals too
People want to repay other people’s kindness. If you’ve helped out other customers, colleagues, and peers with a referral, they will most likely repay you with the same favor. There’s no science behind this; it’s just human nature.
It’s also worth noting that you can ask for referrals not just from existing customers.
- Harness the power of social media
You can also ask for referrals from your social network. LinkedIn is an especially important platform for this. Just go through your connections list (up to second-degree connections, we feel, is okay) and message them. Other platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are helpful as well.
- Communicate your interest in referrals in all your business platforms
You can mention this in networking events or even social events. You can even note it in your drip emails, cold call scripts, or even in your business card. Be bold about it.
Photos from Pexels. Main photo by Oleg Magni