Jeff Riddle

Client and Customer Referrals: Five Steps to Get Great Ones

By: Jeff Riddle | August 20, 2013 | 

customer referrals

By Jeff Riddle

Client or customer referrals are one of the most effective ways to grow your business.

But many service professionals believe referrals are a random occurrence, only generated by great service.

A recent study in the financial services sector determined 87 percent of clients are willing to recommend their financial service providers, but only 11 percent of them are actually being asked to do so.

While delivering great service is half the equation, the other half is asking your satisfied clients for referrals.

Here are five steps to help you ask for referrals.

Step 1: Adjust Your Mindset

Take a moment to think about the last time you referred a friend to your favorite restaurant. Why did you refer them? I’ll bet you did it because you knew they would enjoy going to the restaurant.

People are naturally motivated to refer valuable businesses to their friends and associates, for the benefit of those people.

It’s not about helping you and your business. This is important to remember, because when you’re asking for referrals, you’re not asking to get “hooked up.” Instead, you’re empowering your satisfied clients to help their friends and associates, by recommending the value you offer.

Step 2: Identify Moments of Truth

Not every client interaction is ripe for asking. Identify moments of truth when the value you offer is most present in your client interactions.

This may be after launching a successful marketing campaign, a lucrative PR launch, or when your client tells you how grateful they are for your services.

Step 3: Ask an Open-Ended Question

Most professionals asking for referrals use the following language “Do you know anyone who might benefit from our service?” The problem with this question is that there are only two answers – yes or no.

Instead, use an open-ended question to give your clients the mental space to identify friends and associates they know would benefit from working with you.

“I’m so glad you’re getting so much value from our work together. Who do you know who might benefit from <insert your value prop>?”

Step 4: Listen

Once you ask the open ended question, your clients may take a second to think about their answer. Wait and listen until they have some ideas. Quietly jot down a list of everyone they mention, and remain quiet until they let you know they’re done.

Step 5: Control the Process

Your clients might be excited to refer in the moment, but it won’t be a top priority tomorrow when they’re waist deep in the drudgery of life.

Agree upon a specific date by asking “when do you think you can make these referrals?”

You may also suggest writing an email introduction template to make the process easier. This will not only speed things up, it also allows you to control the message.

Asking is a game changer. You’re sitting on a goldmine of satisfied clients who want to share your business with their communities. Don’t let referrals be happenstance.

Help your clients help their friends by asking for referrals… and you will benefit in the process.

About Jeff Riddle

Jeff Riddle is dedicated to helping professionals drive sales with a human touch. His relationship centric approach to selling, called the givegive, emphasizes deepening relationships with clients to ignite growth through client referrals. He is based in San Francisco, CA

  • Great post Jeff, we often forget to ask and see what we will receive. I’ve found too that if clients don’t have the time to make the referral themselves, just getting their permission for our sales team to use their name can grease the wheels of a sales process: “Hi Ryan, I’m contacting you today because Jeff thought you could benefit from ____.” Just using the familiarity of the name can help advance the sales process.

    • ryanruud (My browser won’t let me just “comment” so Ryan hope you don’t mind me coming in on your coat tails!). I especially love #3 about the open ended question — the principle of the open ended question is applicable in SO many areas and I especially got it drilled into me as a telephone crisis counselor. Referral-seeking isn’t a crisis (hopefully) but this type of question inevitably expands the potential response and that’s often a powerful thing!

      • biggreenpen  well said. It’s amazing how improving the way we connect with people in work can impact so many areas of our lives! I often find (to my enjoyment) that as clients improve these skills, they not only see benefit in work but their relationships with their spouse, family, and friends improves too 🙂

      • biggreenpen ryanruud Ha Ha! I don’t mind at all! And you’re totally right. The open ended question is a powerful tool! I was a journalist well before I was a pr, marketing guy. The open ended question is journalism 101. It’s also a great account development and product development tool to uncover other ways you can serve clients.

        • ryanruud biggreenpen NEVER let them answer with a yes or no. 😉

    • ryanruud Great point! In my years selling and working with sales professionals/SMBs, it’s become clear that sales isn’t as much about adding value as it is about reducing risk! The human brain is designed first and foremost to survive and a cold outreach without any connection triggers risk. But when there is something familiar in the outreach, even if it’s just a name, the prospect is less likely to filter you out.

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