Asking for referrals can be an effective way to generate new business leads and expand your network. However, it’s important to approach the process in a professional and respectful manner to avoid coming across as pushy or desperate. If you can embrace these concepts and put them into practice, you will acquire more targeted clients at less cost, in less time, retain more clients, expand your relationships, and- have more fun! It just takes some focus and commitment.
Here are some best practices for asking for referrals:
Understand Why Most Professionals Don’t Ask for Referrals (Less than 11% Ask)
This is important because if you understand what goes wrong – you will have a better chance to solve it for yourself. Generally, it is a combination of four challenges – lack of skills, lack of courage (emotional competence), lack of a system, and self-limiting and often false beliefs. As a result, professionals either don’t ask or ask in a way that leads to an awkward exchange. The solution? It is usually a combination of finding a foundational technology-based referral system that does most of the work for you and some form of training and leadership.
Build Strong Relationships
Before asking for a referral, make sure you have a strong relationship with the person you’re asking. This means taking the time to get to know them, understand their needs, and deliver value. This can take 15 minutes, 2 hours or more. Delivering value can come in the form of asking great questions, offering credible advice, referring to a valuable resource or even just listening and offering support.
Get Both Types of Referrals – Proactive and Reactive
We are often asked: How do I get referrals without asking? When professionals receive unsolicited referrals, it is usually because they are referable, they have a strong brand, and make it easy for people to refer. Your “preferability” is a result of nurturing relationships with high contact, delivering value, and demonstrating values (show up on time, do what you say, finish what you start, say please and thank you). Getting proactive referrals requires a system and even better- building a referral culture in your business. To learn more about taking a full swing to a referral culture – check out this free whitepaper.
When asking for a referral, be specific about what you’re looking for. Explain who your ideal client is and what kind of services you provide. This will help the person you’re asking to think of specific individuals who might be a good fit. A great way to position this is to share stories of the types of people you have been helping, how excited you are to help them and ask them specifically who they know that they care about who is like that. Remember, humans have a fundamental need to make a difference and we feel best when we help others.
Give People and Businesses Reasons to Refer- Their Reasons Not Yours
Show the person you’re asking for a referral that you value their time and effort by offering something in return. Incentives work well. This could be a discount on your services, a referral back to them, or simply a thank-you note. Incentives increase referrals by 50% over time. A popular one we see used with our system is a $100 Amazon gift card if the referral converts to a client. They are easy to administer and seem to be universally desired. Most importantly, always remember that we humans are a predictable species. We all want some version of “we made a difference” on our gravestones. Make sure you make that the primary reason why someone should refer.
How to Ask for Referrals and When to Ask for Referrals
The simple answer on when to ask is anytime you have built a relationship and after you add some value. A starter question could be “How has this been helpful?” then “What was most helpful?”. That can be followed up with “Great – I am sure you know others you care about that perhaps I can help also. Can I take a minute to share who I help the most?”…..then nominate some areas of their life where they may know people like that. After that, it is just a matter of sharing your process and what happens next.
The Best Way to Ask
We are also often asked, “What is the best way to ask for referrals?”. Generally, this refers more to the optimal style, tone, and attitude that is not as easily trained or scripted. Here is what I have learned after doing this and teaching thousands of others to do this. The mantra is simple: do the right thing. That’s it. It is the right thing to ask for referrals. It is right for your clients – they want to make a difference. It is right for you – referrals are the best lead source by 400%! It is also best for your network- they know it is good business to refer to you in hopes of you sending some their way. Other than that, make sure you have something to say (script, outline, key messages) that you practice till it is perfect so it sounds like your authentic self in your style and tone. If you use an automated system that does the “asking” for you – make sure your templates are personalized to your tone and style. With our platform – we have done exhaustive research and built it out so it makes it easy to do just that.
Remember that asking for a referral is a privilege, not a right. Don’t pressure or manipulate people into providing referrals, and always be respectful of their time and boundaries. Let the conversation develop naturally so that it doesn’t feel forced. Our clients use a simple approach that positions referrals as part of their client service model as a value add. To learn more about how we make that easy, click here.
By following these best practices, you can increase your chances of receiving high-quality referrals that can help grow your business. You will also increase the probability that you will be more referable in the future. If you are not sure where to start, take our 2-minute quiz to know your baseline score for your Referral Intelligence.
ReferMe IQ™ is passionate about helping organizations build high-growth referral-based businesses with their ”state of the art” automated referral platform. Peter S. Velardi is an accomplished senior executive and entrepreneur who has impacted thousands of individuals and organizations to build a fast-growing referral-based business.
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