Most people ask for referrals the wrong way. They say something like, “If you know anyone who could use my services, please let me know.” This is not an effective way to get referrals from busy people with other things besides growing your business on their mind.
Here are some quick tips to ask more effectively:
1. Find a good time to ask the client for a referral. Best times include: when they sign a contract, when you complete a job and they like it, when they thank you, when you go above and beyond to solve a problem — and other times when you have demonstrated value and they like you.
2. Ask permission to take time to discuss referrals, so that they are focused on it. “Would you mind sitting down, either now, or at a more convenient time, maybe over coffee, to talk about who else you know who might get similar value from my services?”
3. Ask specific questions, not vague questions. If they are on a board of directors, ask who they know on the board that might need your services. If they go to a specific place of worship, ask who they know in the congregation who might need your services. And so on. In some cases, I’ve even asked straight out: “Can we go through your Rolodex?” The more specific your questions, the more likely the client is to think of someone.
4. Ask how you should follow up, and respect their wishes. They may want to make an introduction, or they might want you to send a letter.
5. Let them know what happens, and thank them either way. Going back to point #1 above, a great time to ask for a referral is after you get a referral. After all, the client has now become your advocate and has put their butt on the line for you.
Homework for you: Try the above with 5 of your best clients, today (if you don’t already practice this advice).