Why Don’t You Ask For Referrals?
I’ve asked thousands of audience members and client staffers that question. Here are the most common answers:
- We’re afraid of rejection. What if they don’t like me as much as I think — or hope — they do?
- We don’t think to do it.
- We don’t want to impose.
- Customers wouldn’t want to share us.
- We don’t know how. Nobody ever taught us.
The only reasonable excuse on the list is the last item: you simply don’t know how. This column will change that. Clip it, take a picture of it with your phone, and put it somewhere prominent for future reference.
The other roadblocks on the list are irrational beliefs, which simply stall your progress toward positive improvement.
What if they don’t like you? They’ve been with you for 12 years. Of course they like you. There’s a lot of competition out there, yet they buy from you.
You don’t think to do it? Put a yellow sticky on your monitor, and write REFERRALS on it. That’ll remind you. If you prefer electronic reminders, zap yourself with your phone on a daily basis!
You don’t want to impose on the customer? They don’t want to share you? Think about your own experiences: When you find the house painters who don’t leave a mess after they’re done, or the dental hygienist who doesn’t poke your gums, or the chiropractor who finally gets rid of your pain, aren’t you thrilled to share that person with everyone you know? In fact, in social settings, it’s a competition to get your friends to use your guy!
To your customers, you are the chiropractor and the hygienist and the painter. They love you. Let them help you.
The discomfort with referrals (and testimonials for that matter — but that’s a different topic) is yours, not your customers’. They’d be happy to help you grow your sales, if only you asked.
Now that I’ve eliminated all your possible defenses, here’s how to ask for a referral:
Don’t make a special phone call for it; that’s awkward. Rather, add it on to the end of your existing conversations. It’s particularly powerful to ask for a referral after you’ve resolved a customer’s problem or issue (which, for most of us, is why we talk to customers at all).
“Are you good? Did we resolve that to your satisfaction?”
After the affirmation, ask this referral question:
“Listen, Tom, who else do you know who’d get the same kind of value you do from working with us?”
That’s the question. Ask it as it’s written. Write it out on paper or screen, in big text, so you can read it word for word.
After you ask the question, stop talking and listen.
If the silence extends five, seconds that’s okay. Ten seconds? Also okay. Twenty seconds? Don’t panic, stay quiet.
Don’t be the first to speak. Let the customer think and answer. Coming up with a referral might take a bit of time.
With this approach, one-third of the people you ask will give you a referral. That’s a batting average that’d get you into the Hall of Fame.
If the customer says, “I’ll have to think about that,” or anything else that isn’t a referral, make the second effort and help them think of somebody:
“Tom, we work with companies like yours — privately owned, and of a certain size (describe your customer — you might say, ‘our customers are people you’re probably friends with’) — and our customer is usually the owner or president. Who do you know like that?”
Then, once again, let there be silence. Don’t “nervous chatter” your way out of this referral. Remember, you’re feeling far more discomfort than your customer at this point. Let them think.
At this point, another third of your customers will think of a referral, giving you a 66% referral rate of return.
These have been the numbers historically among my clients.
Some Finer Points:
Note that I’m asking who they know, not if they know somebody. The former gets me a name, the latter likely gets me a “no.”
Next, silence is the key to this process. Letting your customers think on the spot. You’re doing a disservice to everyone involved if you talk your way through this.
Remember, they want to help you. They’re very happy with your work, and will look good to their friends and colleagues by connecting them with you. Let your customers help you grow.