Boost sales by asking for customer referrals
Why don’t we pursue asking customers for referrals as much as we should? I’ve been pondering this question for a while and I think the answer is fairly straightforward – we simply need to develop good habits and a routine for doing so.
I decided to put this realisation into action, starting with my latest client. I completed the job, double-checked (in writing) that they were satisfied with the results and asked whether they would be happy to refer me to anyone who might benefit from similar digital marketing services. I even gave a time-based incentive. (I’ll share my example at the end of this article).
How you should leverage the web of relationships
Every one of your clients has the potential to connect you to at least a dozen other contacts without too much trouble. The web of relationships already exists, but unless and until you pursue them actively, it’s unlikely your client is going to make it their ‘priority’ to refer you.
Remember, your clients are busy, so if you think, “I shouldn’t have to ask for referrals, my customers should want to give them,” think again. If asked, most people are willing to share their thoughts, but the majority are unlikely to take action unprompted simply because they have too many other things to do.
So what can you do to get referrals?
Ask for it. It’s up to you to put the idea in their heads. If you know you’ve done a good job for a client and they have confirmed they are satisfied, there’s no shame in asking them to refer other people to consider your services.
Where we seem to get stuck is ‘how to ask’ and the awkwardness associated with asking often puts this task on the backburner, then inevitably it’s forgotten, or you’ve missed the opportune moment to ask your satisfied client to refer you.
Suggestions for creating the habit of asking for referrals:
1) Set a monthly goal for yourself
Decide that you are going to ask for at least 4 to 5 referrals a month. (Do it weekly to keep it manageable). Don’t limit your request to clients. Consider well-connected friends, business acquaintances or even relevant contacts on your LinkedIn or Facebook.
2) Make referrals part of your initial agreement
This one’s not for everyone, but consider making referral requests part of your initial agreement with a new client: “If you are satisfied with the work I do for you, you agree to provide X number of referrals.” Some customers might be taken aback by this approach, but others might be impressed by your drive.
3) When a client gives you a compliment, ask for a referral
I often get sporadic compliments and bursts of thanks from my current clients. Whenever the customer compliments my work, I respond with a thank you and consider whether it’s an opportune moment to ask for a referral. It’s often as simple as saying: “It’s great to hear you are happy with my work. Do you know anyone else who can benefit from these services?”
4) Provide a template. (Your clients are busy!)
Whether you are asking clients to recommend you to their network on social media, make a LinkedIn introduction, or have one-to-one conversations with potential customers, it’s always helpful to provide them with a template – especially if they don’t have a ‘way with words’.
Here’s an example:
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve been working with Arpana from Give Me Marketing for a few months. She’s helped me build landing pages and sales pages for my website so I can get more traffic to my site and more registrations for my workshops. We’ve gotten some great results and I’m feeling enthused again and I just realised you may benefit from working with her too. So…
[Referral], meet [Arpana, insert LinkedIn Profile]
Arpana, meet [Referral, insert LinkedIn Profile]
I hope both of you benefit from this introduction! I’ll leave you to it. Speak to you both again soon.
After providing this template to a customer, check in with them in a week or two to ask (nicely) if they sent it out. If they haven’t at that stage, don’t push it.
5) Offer a reward or an incentive
The likelihood of a client feeling inclined to send the referral increases if there’s a reward in it for them. Sometimes this can be a monetary value and I also recommend making it time-based.
Here’s an example:
[Client], if you have enjoyed working together and have found benefit in the process and outcomes, I would much appreciate if you can refer other entrepreneurs who may benefit from similar services. If your referral ends up booking a job with me in the next 6 months, I can offer you a 10% discount off your next job with me with a year validity. Terms and conditions apply and we can discuss this in more detail should it be of interest.
6) Be specific about who you are looking to attract
Where possible, be specific about what you are looking for when asking for referrals. Are you looking for new clients with a high net-worth? Are you looking to work with medium-sized enterprises, or small businesses or start-ups? If you don’t tell contacts who your target audience is, you risk wasting time pursuing leads that aren’t your ideal client.
7) Be patient, referrals can take time to pan out
Not every referral pans out and even when they do, referrals can take time to turn into money. Although I can’t give you a definitive figure for the close-ratio on referral business, estimates range between 50 to 500%, which is certainly higher than cold calling or many other marketing methods you might employ. It also requires a lot less effort than other marketing techniques, so consider it a WIN-WIN.
8) Advertise your referral program
Even if it’s simply putting a button on your homepage about your referral program, make sure you advertise that it exists. That way it does work for you even while you are sleeping and its success isn’t solely dependent on your weekly effort to ask for referrals.
So my advice is to capitalise on the power of word-of-mouth and use referral marketing techniques to grow your customer base and connect with more qualified prospective clients.
Regardless of whether you are a medium-sized enterprise or a small business, or an entrepreneur, make it a habit to reach into your marketing toolkit for your most effective marketing tool – ‘The Referral’.