I haven’t asked for a referral in more than a decade, and I’d like to tell you why.
Most sales trainers and managers will tell you to ask for a referral as soon as you’ve gotten the sale. Some will even tell you to make a recording of yourself saying ‘I always ask for referrals,’ and play it on your CD player or MP3 in your car and other similar nonsense. Yes, I called it nonsense. While asking for the referral can work sometimes, in my opinion, it is somewhat presumptuous and can be perceived as a risk by the new client.
It’s presumptuous because while you’ve succeeded in closing a sale, you haven’t yet delivered the product or service. At this point in the relationship, all you’ve done is establish enough trust and rapport to get the prospect to give you a chance. Assuming your product or service is great, and the client will benefit significantly from its use then that’s a good thing. However, until you’ve delivered, and that client has had a complete service experience, you really don’t deserve that referral. By asking for the referral at the close, what you’re really communicating to them is something like ‘Thanks for your money. Now I want your friends’ money, too.’
Since the new client hasn’t had the chance to experience your service yet, recommending you to someone else is a risk. At this point, is it reasonable to expect them to be willing to risk a friendship or business relationship for you? Have you done enough for them that they’d be willing to speak favorably on your behalf? Obviously not. At this point they don’t even know whether you’re going to make good on everything you’ve promised to them.
So, what then, is the best way to get referrals? Earn them. Deliver a level of service that leaves the new client satisfied. Exceed their expectations. You can also do what I do. I won’t do business with someone unless they seem to be a decent person, and I’ll do what I can to find of what they’re reputation is among their clientele. Armed with this knowledge, if I’ve found them to be of good report and apparently good character, I’ll give them some referrals, or put them in contact with suppliers who might get them a better deal on things that they need for their business. Why? If my purpose in doing business with them is to help their business to succeed, then it just makes sense to see whether I can make use of my resource network to benefit them even beyond the scope of my own services.
In the last week alone I’ve received four referrals without asking for them, all from people I’ve never even done business with, simply because I delivered value through the knowledge and resources I made available to them without any expectation of anything in return.
So, if you’d like to get more referrals, and get them more easily, think of ways that you can deliver value to people, even before you’ve tried to sell them anything. Once you have made someone your client, be sure to exceed expectations and deliver over and above your promises. Don’t ask for the referral, earn it. Don’t need the referral, deserve it.