Many people (including your competitors) are uncomfortable asking for referrals. After all, if you do great work for your clients, the referrals will come, right? This approach is passive and although some referrals may come your way, it’s much more effective to go out and ask for more referral business. The key is knowing how and when to ask.
As is the case with many aspects of business, timing is key. Put yourself in your client’s shoes. Would you be willing to refer a service provider a few days after they started working with you? Chances are that you wouldn’t, as referring a firm to your contacts is a reflection of you and your business. You would want to make sure they provided a good service before risking your reputation and referring them to others.
A good time to ask a client for a referral is when you have hit a significant milestone in the relationship. Perhaps you have worked together for a year, or you have just delivered a major piece of work to the client. Has your client provided any feedback? If they say they are happy with your product or service, that is a great time to ask them for a referral.
How to ask
So how do you go about asking for a referral if you feel the time is right? You could start by saying thank you. For example, you could email your client or meet with them face to face and thank them for their business. Mention that you enjoyed working with them and that you would like to work with similar clients. Perhaps they could introduce you to someone or send a referral at some time in the near future?
When asking for a referral you need to be specific. If you offer various products and services, you should specify which product line you would like a referral for. Make it easy for your client to help you. Tell them how best to make a referral – perhaps an email introduction would work best for your business? You might even offer your existing client 10% off their next bill if they refer you a new client this year.
Saying thank you
If a client takes the time to send you a referral, make sure you take the time to thank them. In order to track where new clients come from, you should have a standard questionnaire for all new clients which asks how they heard of your firm and whether they were referred by someone. You can then use this data to ensure you track referrals into your business, which will enable you to reach out and thank your existing customers for their referrals. This will surprise and delight your clients and could result in further referrals.
Do you have any tips for asking for referrals? We’d love to hear your ideas over on our LinkedIn page!