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I won’t sugarcoat it…
Asking for referrals can be more awkward than you’re 7th grade dance.
But–they are vital to the success of a business.
In fact, here are a few stats to show just how important referrals are to your business, courtesy of Social Media Today:
- 78% of B2B marketers say referrals generate leads of good or excellent quality
- 60% of marketers say referrals generate a high volume of leads
- 54% say referral marketing has a lower cost-per-lead than other forms of outreach
- 88% of marketers use referral marketing and loyalty marketing software
- Marketers rate referrals as the 2nd highest source of quality leads
Needless to say, referrals are great for business.
They generate high quality leads for a lower price than other forms of marketing, and often generate a significant amount of business for an organization.
Duh. You get it.
Understanding the importance of referrals is not the issue.
The issue is asking for them.
You may not be sure what to say or how to say it. You may be naturally introverted and asking someone for a referral is way outside of your comfort zone. Or you simply don’t have any experience asking for referrals and don’t know where to begin.
Well, we’re here for you, fam!
We’ve asked for referrals before and still do to this day.
If you’re not naturally inclined to this kind of activity, it’s a bit weird at first.
But you’ll get better and eventually become a referral-asking-pro.
So, here are 13 tips that will help you become said referral-asking-pro.
13 Tips for Asking for Referrals
1. Build Value First
First and foremost, you need to build value with your customers. If they are not satisfied with your work, or they don’t feel like it was worth the value, they aren’t likely to offer a referral.
Whether it is your first time working with a client or your tenth, establishing value with your customers will make asking for referrals – and everything else on this list – easier.
A simple way to build real value with a customer? Provide data that proves it. Something like a stat showing their return on investment in your services.
2. Exceed The Customer’s Expectations
Do NOT overpromise with your client’s expctations for your services/work.
Underpromise (or just promise naturally?) and overdeliver.
Next to building value, one of the best ways to make asking for referrals easier is to exceed the customer’s expectations.
This one is a bit obvious, but when someone is clearly impressed by your work they are more likely to share that with others.
Make sure that happens 👆👆
Nothing makes a customer happy than delivering above their expectations.
And, since they are obviously happy with your work, you know going into the conversation that they are more likely to say “yes” than “no”.
3. Identify the Right Person to Ask
If your main contact is NOT “the boss” or “the person who actually pays you,” you might have a tough time getting a referral.
Identifying the right person to ask could be the difference in getting a referral or having your request lost in an email chain.
And in some cases, it may not be the person you are working with the most.
Depending on your client, the person to ask will be the business owner, manager, or department head.
If you’re not quite sure who the right person is, ask yourself a simple question: who holds the purse strings to my project?
In many cases, whoever is paying for your services will be the right person to ask. If they aren’t, see if they’d be willing to set up a conversation with their boss and keep moving up the chain.
4. Be Intentional With Your Ask
I repeat: be intentional.
Asking for a referral is a common business practice, but you should be clear about your intentions. If you’re asking them to connect you with someone else, make it obvious that you are making this request.
Don’t beat around the bush and try to sneak in that you’d like a referral. Most business owners will respect your ability to be direct. On top of that, making it clear that you are asking for a referral will ensure you leave the conversation with a yes or no answer.
5. Be Specific With Your Request
This is also super important.
In addition to being intentional, being specific in your request will make it easier for your customers to referrer you.
- Are you looking for a long quote?
- Short testimonial?
- When do you need it by?
- Do they know someone you’d like to get in touch with?
Ask them specifically to connect the two of you.
By being specific, you’re letting your customers know exactly what you want from them. There is no gray area or room for interpretation that the customer needs to figure.
6. Leverage Positive Feedback
Did your client just tell you how wonderful of a job you did?
That great! Now could be a perfect time to bring up a referral.
When a client is giving you positive feedback, they are already thinking about the value you’ve been able to bring to their business. Leverage that positivity to request that they share your name with others who could also use your services.
You’ll want to be a bit crafty in your transition from “thank you” to “please referrer me”, but the conclusion of the conversation is a good place to make the request in this situation.
7. Make it Easy for People to Know What You Do
In other words, be clear about what you specifically do to help your clients.
Do you manage social media handles? Do you consult on sales tactics?
Making it very what you bring to the table will help clients understand your value and what you can do to help them.
Plaster it on your website, business cards, social media accounts, or wherever you do business. Customers want to know what you can do to help them. Make it easy.
8. Create a Customer Referral System
Creating efficient systems in your business is an important part of becoming more efficient and effective with your time. Referrals are no different.
A referral system can be made in many ways, but it will usually consist of some rules like:
- Setting referral goals
- Identifying referral sources
- Making a plan to reach out
- Developing alert systems (like a newsletter or email campaign)
- Following up
You can get as fancy or as simple as you’d like with your customer referral system, but creating one is a crucial step towards sustainable customer referrals.
For more on creating a customer referral system, check out this article.
9. Use a Template
Using a referral template can make it easier for both you and your customer to ask for and give a referral.
Wording referral emails can be awkward and time-consuming, so why not create a template that does it for you?
I’d suggest two main forms of a template: 1) A template you use to request a referral; and 2) a template that your customer can use.
Here’s an example of a template you could use when asking for a referral:
To: [Customer name]
Subject: Referral Request
Hello [Customer name],
I’m so glad to hear you’re happy with the results of working with [Your name/company name] so far. I knew we could help, and I’m pleased you’re seeing results so quickly.
Since things are going so well, I found myself wondering if you have any colleagues at similar companies who would benefit from our [product/service]. I would love to help them achieve similar growth.
And, if the response is positive from your customer, you could share this simple referral template that they can fill out and press send:
To: [Referral name]
Subject: I’d like to connect you with someone who has helped grow my business
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve been working with [name/company name] for a few months. The other day, I was talking with her about some of the things she and I have done, and I realized I should put you two together. So…
[Referral], meet [name, with a LinkedIn profile URL].
[Name], meet [Referral, with a LinkedIn profile URL].
Can I leave the rest to you two?
Talk to you both later.
Of course, feel free to adjust these as necessary, find different templates across the web, or develop your own.
What matters is having one – it makes outreach much easier!
10. Offer Incentives for a Referral
Enticing your customers with some sort of incentive is a great way to increase referrals. It provides that small extra push to customers who are on the sidelines and is a pleasant bonus for a customer who was already thinking of sending a referral your way.
Offer an Amazon gift card, a discount on next month’s services, or subscription to some sort of service for a period of time. If you’re reaching out to your email list, you could even add some scarcity to the incentive by saying the first 5 or 10 people to respond to this offer with a referral will receive the prize.
Get creative and have fun with this one. You know your customers and your industry best, so offer something relevant or fun that you know people would like to have.
11. Ask for a Positive Review
Instead of asking a business to put you in contact directly with another customer, there are some cases where you’d really just like for them to leave you a positive review.
Reviews are so important for establishing proof of products for your business. The review could be on Yelp or Google, it could be a quote from the customer that you publish to your website, or it could be an endorsement on LinkedIn.
You should ask for this review on whichever platform or medium from which you get clients.
12. Create Partnerships
Not everyone in your industry is a competitor. In fact, many businesses may provide services that are complementary to your own.
Find companies like this and form a relationship with them. Then, work with them to create a referral partnership whereby you recommend their services to your clients and vice versa.
This kind of setup benefits your business, your partner’s business, and your clients. It’s a win-win-win situation.
13. Follow Up
Okay, listen up. If you do only one of these 13 things, it needs to be this one.
Too often we provide a service, the client says thanks, pays their invoice and that’s the end.
Instead of payment being the end of the relationship, make it a new beginning. Follow up with them and ask for feedback, ask how things are working out, and ask if they could refer you to someone else.
Additionally, be sure to follow up on any referral requests you make. Even people with the best intentions get busy and forget to do something they said they would. A quick follow up email might be just the reminder they needed to give you that referral.
You’ve got this!
Armed with these 13 tips for referrals, you’re ready to get out there and start landing some high-quality leads and increasing sales.
You may not nail your first pitch, but don’t let that discourage you.
As long as the ask is coming from the right place, no one is going to hold it against you.
Keep practicing, keep asking, create systems to make your life easier, and good luck!
You’ve got this.