Referrals Made Easy

By Brian Ahearn, Chief Influence Officer, Influence PEOPLE, LLC

Referrals are the lifeblood of most businesses. After all, if you have a good customer it’s likely they know other people or businesses that are similar. The question is: How do you tactfully get warm introductions?

There’s a concept in psychology called pre-suasion that can help you get more and better quality referrals. Robert Cialdini, Ph.D. – the most cited living social psychologist in the world on the science of ethical influence, and author of the New York Times best-selling book Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade – defines “pre-suasion” as:

“The process of arranging for an audience to be receptive to a message before they encounter it.”

How to Set the Stage for Great Referrals
You might say it’s setting the stage for more effective influence. What you say or do in the moments before you ask for a referral might make all the difference in terms of the number and quality of leads.

Consider this study. When grocery store patrons were asked for their email address in order to receive an email with coupons for free samples of a new pop/soda, 33 percent gave their email. With a different group, 75 percent voluntarily gave their email! The difference was a pre-suasive question: “Do you consider yourself adventurous, someone who likes to try new things?” Once people thought of themselves as people who like to try new things, it was easy and consistent to do what was asked next.

Avoid These Common Referral Mistakes
With referrals let’s start with what not to do:

  • Don’t ask for referrals at the close of the sale. This is a bad idea because your new client is more concerned with whether or not they have just made a good choice than they are with helping you.
  • Don’t hand out business cards and ask clients to give them to people. This is a bad idea because people never have the business cards with them when they could hand them out – so most end up in the trash or tucked away in a drawer.

A better pre-suasive approach might go like this:

“Sally, I’m sure you’ve had salespeople ask you for referrals at the close of a sale. Don’t worry; I’m not going to do that. But I would like to ask you for one favor: If, six months from now, you’re happy about the decision to switch your business to our firm, would you be open to talking about referrals?”

Most people are willing to put off into the future what they don’t want to do now (procrastination!) so it’s practically guaranteed you’ll hear, “Yes.”

An appropriate response might be, “I really appreciate that, because referrals are the lifeblood of our business. Without referrals, we would not have met you.”

To Make the Most of Referrals, Plan to Follow Up
Next, update your CRM so, six months from now, you remember to make the call. That follow-up call might go something this:

Salesperson: “Sally, it’s Bill from XYZ Company. How are you?”

Client: “Great. Thanks for asking.”

Salesperson: “I’m checking in to see if you’re happy you made the switch to our firm?”

Client: “Yes, things are good.”

Salesperson: “Great! You may recall when we signed the paperwork: I asked if you would be open to talking about referrals if you were happy about your decision. I know you’re busy now, so can we find 15-20 minutes next week to talk about who you know that might want to make the switch like you did?”

After the call, send an email thanking Sally for her willingness to talk about referrals. This is important because it reinforces what she’s committed to and it’s a pre-suasive reminder to start thinking about who she can refer.

The morning of your call with Sally, send an email or text to confirm you’re still on. This also engages more pre-suasion.

“Sally, are we still good to talk about referrals at 2:45 today?”

This confirmation reminds her about the call and starts her thinking about referrals again because you’ve brought it front and center in her mind. The more something is on her mind, the more importance it creates for her – and that’s magnified because of what she’s previously committed to.

By the time you have your phone call, Sally has been thinking about referrals for quite a bit of the day and possibly over the past few days. You’ve pre-suaded her and she’s going to give you more and better referrals using this approach than she would have otherwise.

It’s time to break old patterns when it comes to referrals. It is possible to get better results with referrals. All it takes is a little forethought, some ethical pre-suasion and consistent follow up. Make those small changes, and you’re guaranteed to get more and better quality referrals from satisfied customers.

Brian Ahearn is chief influence officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC, and is author of the new book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade That Are Lasting and Ethical.