Today, I want to talk to you about the fear factor of referrals. During a webinar I did the other day, I asked my clients what their primary way of getting new business is. Unequivocally, they said referrals. “They know you, they trust you – it’s the perfect scenario!” This is fantastic and completely true, I was so happy to hear them say that. I then asked my clients how often they asked for referrals. They responded that they don’t! It perplexes me that people know how amazing referrals are – they are one of the fastest and best ways to grow a small business – and yet there is this reticence to ask for them!
People know they do great business with referrals. However, what happens is that people don’t talk to their referrals because they are afraid to tarnish such a precious relationship. They’re afraid to annoy or inconvenience their referral or worse – turn a fantastic relationship into a sinking ship. This is tragic because referrals are actually one of your greatest resources.
Try flipping the script. By contacting your clients and reminding them of the great experience you had with them, you continue to foster that relationship. Whenever you want to ask something of someone, the best way to start is to give them something first: a report, a gift, a thought, whatever. Our brains understand reciprocity best. When both sides benefit from a relationship, there is incentive to continue that relationship.
And so it becomes almost urgent for you to go to your clients and ask them to save their friends and family from disaster caused by not using you for their business needs. Remind them that there are people out there who don’t work at the same level or quality that you do. They don’t have the same knowledge, processes, care or compassion as you do. If you envision reaching out to your referrals as a way to truly help them and save them from a sticky situation, it becomes so much easier to pick up the phone, send an email, or however you want to start the process to get their attention so they can be reminded of the great job you did.
We’ve all had one experience where someone went the extra mile for us and it completely shaped how we viewed an industry. For me, it was my realtor. When I moved into my home, I was blending my family with my husband’s family. Anyone will know that’s a bumpy road. A good real estate agent will find you a house that fits most of the items on your wish list. A great real estate agent, like mine, checked in on how we were doing in the process, and thought of us in every part of the real estate process. That’s how you build lasting referrals.
Don’t go to clients that you don’t click with or that don’t like you. Only approach people who you know you did a great job for and you have a good relationship with. A great way to start the conversation is with a text or an email. Sometimes, we’re too busy to pick up the phone. But a quick “Hey, I would love to circle back with you and find out how you’ve been enjoying your new X. I have some great information for you that I think you’d find really interesting.” can work wonders. Whatever you do, don’t ask if they’d like to meet because our knee jerk reaction will always be to say no. When asked to meet, we are instantly reminded of how full our calendar is.
So what do you do instead? Don’t give them the option to say no. Avoid questions that require a yes or no answer altogether. Ask your referral when they would be conveniently available so that you can have a conversation and make sure that part of that conversation isn’t just getting more referrals.
Give first. So think about what was really valuable to these people. What would be really helpful? It could be a little trinket you can get from the dollar store. It could be a report about something related to your industry that they really would benefit from knowing even if they don’t need to sell their house right now. There’s a thousand different ways that this can go. The important thing is you control the narrative. Don’t let them say no, give before you ask.
Another important thing to remember is to not get down when one of the people you reach out to doesn’t have time for you. Call the next person! Not everyone’s going to be a yes. Not every client is going to be happy to do anything. But those that do are worth their weight in gold.
I hope you found the story of the power of referrals helpful. I hope that you ask (and remember to give before asking!) for referrals because you know you did a good job. Don’t be afraid of jogging their memory about how fun it was. Maybe there was a time when you dissolved into laughter or something was really stressful and you helped them overcome it. Don’t worry about throwing a little bit of those references into your conversation because it’s true and it builds empathy. It reminds people of the value that you provided, and that makes asking for a referral that much easier.