Check out Wendy Maynard's list of 7 Tips to Increase Referrals in the June 23 issue of VSR. She's got some useful ideas about using promotions to generate referrals. Promotions are great, but my favorite is Tip #7: Ask for referrals.
Wendy suggests that you ask your current and former customers to pass your name and contact information on to their circle. Asking for referrals is a great way to get more business, but I suggest that you don't ask your customers to pass your name on. That means they have to work! And even with good intentions, the chance of them getting your name to their contact is slim. And it's even slimmer to get the contact to call you. Instead, if you want to receive more referrals, take control of the referral process yourself.
When to ask? The best time to ask for a referral is when the customer indicates they're thrilled with your product or service.
How to ask? Paint a picture of your ideal customer and when they typically look for your product or service. Then ask your customer if they know anyone like that. Here's an example:
"Great, John. I'm glad that cross-selling program worked out so well for you. You know, here at Impact, we work with companies of all sizes who want to improve their sales reps' ability to prospect, sell, and manage accounts by phone. This could be either for inside telesales folks selling by phone or field sales reps who need a way to cover their territory more efficiently. Our clients seek us out when there is either a push to increase sales or to cut costs. Do you know anyone in sales management or in training who might be in this situation? If so, I'd appreciate a referral." OK…pardon the ruthless self-promotion by way of example here, but if you know of anyone, please let us know. We love referrals!
Once you ask, you have to sit there and be quiet. Don't say a word. The customer needs time to think. If he or she comes up with a referral, great! Find out what you can about the account, ask for the contact information, and make the initial contact yourself. That way you know the job will get done.
Asking for referrals is just like any other sales skill: it takes practice. But it will pay off. Who can you ask today? It's time to start practicing!