Referral Strategy

By Malcolm Fleschner

What’s better than closing a sale? Closing a sale and then turning that victory into more business with a stream of quality referrals. However, there is an art to asking customers for names of colleagues who might also be interested in your offerings, so it’s best to plan ahead. Following are a few tips on preparing to pop the referral question:

1. Simply the best. This may seem obvious, but when you begin soliciting from existing customers, ask for referrals only from the customers who have had the opportunity to enjoy your stellar personal service, attentiveness, problem-solving capabilities and high-quality product.

2. Single-question theory. Instead of adding on your referral request as an apparent afterthought to a different conversation, raise the referral issue separately. For example, you might say, “I’ve done my best to provide you with the best possible product and service. If you’ve been happy with the results so far, I would very much appreciate the names of one or two friends or business associates you think could benefit from what I have to offer.”

3. Take advantage. When asking for referrals, timing is everything. When a customer says something complimentary about you or your company, seize the moment. Also, because you never know everything that’s gone on with a customer between calls, make a point to ask for referrals every time you visit.

4. What’s good for the goose… Take advantage of every opportunity to give your customers referrals of their own, as well as advice or any pearl of wisdom from your wealth of experience. Then when the time is right, you can ask that they return the favor.

5. What’s in a name? Of course you want the names and numbers of potential customers, but you also want more. Politely ask why that person’s name came to mind. Also, ask if you may mention your customer’s name when you call. Better yet, have the customer write a brief introductory note that you can affix to the top of a letter of introduction you send.

6. Keep in touch. Once you contact the referral, let your referring customer know how things went. In addition to exhibiting your diligence, this will also provide you with another opportunity to thank the customer and improve that relationship.