If there’s one part of marketing that small business owners absolutely dread, it’s having to ask customers for referrals. Strong willed and independent, they find having to ask for what they see as essentially a handout to be an extremely awkward and uncomfortable maneuver. Unfortunately for them, asking for referrals remains one of the best methods of acquiring new business. Luckily for them, most of their fears and insecurities concerning the the subject are based on misconceptions about the nature and outside perception of the practice, and fueled by a naivety in their execution that hinders the results of their efforts, and dampens their outlook on the entire process dramatically.
The biggest stigma surrounding asking for a referral is that it conveys a certain degree of desperation. The thinking goes as follows: Shouldn’t your clients be so impressed with your service that they give want to refer you on their own accord, without having to ask for it? It is a notion that leads many a business owner to shy away from asking for a referral, even when they know a new lead would greatly benefit their business. It is also a notion that has almost no merit whatsoever. In actuality, asking for a referral from a client can conveys the exact opposite. Having the balls to ask a client for a referral shows a confidence that the level service you provided was top-notch, so much so that you are willing to put said balls on the chopping block, and open up your work to a new tier of scrutiny.
Every facet of your business is littered with calls to action. You know that a not so subtle prompt can dramatically increase conversions. So why would this not apply to referrals as well? You may think their clients will feel used or manipulated when approached. Once again, the reality is quite the opposite. More than likely, they will actually be flattered that you would come to them. In a way it strokes their ego. A person is usually very protective of their inner circle. But because that person is using your service, they have already in a sense vouched for you, through their actions. Therefore, bridging the gap between inclination and action could be as simple as just reaching out.
We spent the last two paragraphs explaining it how getting a referral is a much easier and much less menacing task than it comes of as. But there is a kicker. No matter how much confidence you have, and no matter how sincerely you reach out, if your service actually sucks, you are almost definitely not going to get the referral you are hoping for. This means you need to only ask for a referral when you feel a service is actually worthy of one. This brings us to the most crucial part of successfully getting a referral, knowing when to ask.
The theory behind this step is extremely simple, yet it cannot be stressed enough. Here it is: The best time to ask a client for a referral is when they are HAPPY with you. Whether right after an appointment, or at the end of a pleasant customer service call, ask for a referral when you have a client smiling. This is your moment to pounce. Not before, not a little later on, but during that brief period of time that their heart is swelling with satisfaction, and the thought crosses their mind that their experience with you may just be the cause. If you pay attention, you’ll see it; and when you do, grab their hand, shake it, and bridge that gap.