Suppose you’re out to dinner with friends, or at a business dinner, and one of the people at the table asks “Who knows a good lawyer?” As it turns out, you do. Would you have a problem giving out your lawyer’s name? Probably not.
But turn it around and ask someone to refer you, and all of a sudden it’s a major test of your business credibility and personal standing.
Asking for referrals can be tough, but it’s a great way to get new business. Why? Someone who knows your work is recommending you. That gives you an advantage when you have that first conversation.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask – You deliver a quality product or service and your client or customer will be happy to communicate that. Explain that it is important to your business and that you’d love to meet more people like them who you can help.
2. Wait until you’ve proven yourself, that way the referral will be fact based – It’s tempting to ask “Do you know anyone else I can help?” at the beginning of a project, but it’s best to wait until it’s going well or successfully launched before asking. You can do some pump priming by saying “If things go as well as I think they’re going to, can we talk about other businesses you know who can use our services?”
3. Give a referral and you’ll get a referral – The best way to give a referral: Talk to both parties. You know them both so you can make sure it’s a good fit before you introduce them. Check in with everyone involved after the introduction in case there are any questions or issues. Now you have two business people you made happy. Twice the positive karma for you and twice the potential for referrals back to you!
4. Ask your client or customer to make the initial contact – A call or email saying “Fred is going to contact you and he’s the best thing since sliced bread” will go a long way towards helping you with your initial conversation.
5. Make it easy for customers to refer you – Have your elevator pitch written out, so you can send it to someone when they’re ready to refer you. That makes it easy for the person giving the referral to concisely explain what you do. You can also offer to host a lunch or dinner meeting to facilitate the introduction in person.
6. Use your email signature effectively – Mention that you appreciate referrals as a reminder to everyone you email.
7. Puhleez follow up! – A referral is by far the best way to get new business. What a waste to let the contact sit in your email inbox or voicemail. Set up a process to follow up with referrals and put it in your calendar so you don’t forget.
8. Say thank you! – Say it to everyone involved. Be sure you follow up with your current client – a small gift wouldn’t hurt; say thank you to your prospective client even if it doesn’t work out. Positive karma is a good thing even if there’s no short term business gain.
Remember, most people are happy to help others out, especially if there’s already a good business relationship in place. Asking for (and giving) referrals is a great way to establish positive feelings all way round.