Are You Referral Worthy?

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Be honest now. How often do you ask for and/or receive referral leads? If you do make the “ask,” you probably need to step up the pace.

If you don’t, you are not alone. It is truly amazing how many sales professionals and business owners are uncomfortable asking for referrals. Some don’t know how to ask. Most, even if they know how, simply won’t do it. They’re just not comfortable doing it. Asking for referrals is probably the most important aspect of generating new business and most professionals leave it up to fate.

Why are referrals invaluable?
Referral business is the least expensive way to win new customers. In addition, it has the highest possible leverage and the best potential payoff. Most importantly, a prospect whose name you received through a referral is much more likely to listen to your pitch and less likely to seek out other sources to meet his or her needs. You come to them with a built in reference.

Before acquiring the methods and techniques that will enable you to obtain business from referrals, you first need to determine whether you and your company are “referral-worthy.” To do so, respond to the following questions to give you some insight into your customer’s experience with you and your company.

The Referral-Worthy Assessment

• Do you come to your customer with a level of expertise, product knowledge, and industry knowledge that exceeds your competitors?

• Have you developed and memorized a list of questions that will uncover your customers’ needs, determine any problems they may be encountering, and will elicit conversation?

• Do you LISTEN more than you talk? • Do you provide your customers with ideas and solutions to their problems? • Do you conduct yourself with the utmost professionalism?

• Do you demonstrate the values of honesty, integrity, accountability, respect, safety, and the importance of values?

• Do you make sure your customer do not see any errors or find any unexpected surprises when they get their invoice, contract, or reservations?

• Do you return their calls within 90 minutes?

• If a problem occurs, do you immediately apologize, rectify the situation, and provide compensation if you made an error?

• Do you call after the order to thank them, tell them how much you appreciate their trust in you, and make sure they are happy?

• Do you ask if there are any additional questions or concerns they might have?

• Do you always make a customer feel as though they are VIP’s?

• Do you demonstrate how much you appreciate their business by sending them a handwritten thank you note and, if appropriate, a small but meaningful gift?

• Do you work harder than your competitors to develop a strong relationship with your customers?

• Do you establish strong connections with them on both a business and personal level?

• Do you exceed your customers’ expectations and work hard each time to get them to say, “WOW?”

• Do you end every call with, “Is there anything more I can do for you today?”

• Does everyone in your company that has customer contact think and act as a brand ambassador and display the highest level of professionalism?

• Does everyone on staff treat your customer exceptionally well?

• Does your staff demonstrate consistently to YOU that, without your sales, no one gets a paycheck?

• Do they always ship or deliver on time? • Is customer support available 24/7?

• If your customer calls to ask a question, do they speak with someone who is knowledgeable about all the issues involved with your products and services?

• Do they sound friendlier and more caring than the staff at your competitors?

• Do they treat your customer as though he or she is a VIP?

• Is it easy to do business with your company? • If they walked into your place of business, is it immaculately clean, regardless of the type of business or time of day?

• Would they be greeted in a friendly manner?

• Is a problem-solving team standing ready in case a problem occurs?

• Has your company gone through the points of customer contact to make sure your customer’s experience is always flawless?

• Does your company consistently demonstrate a higher level of service throughout the entire customer experience?

Hopefully, you answered “yes” to all of these questions. If you did, then you’re definitely referral worthy. If you didn’t, then you need to make the necessary improvements in customer service that will guarantee your company is referral-worthy. Without it, your company will fall short in performance…especially at a time when leads are vital to maintain your bottom line.

The art of asking for referrals
Challenge yourself to make it a habit to ask for referrals. There is no magic bullet to approaching customers for that all important referral. It just takes good instincts, honesty, and professionalism.
When should you ask for a referral? The ideal time to ask is simple–whenever your customers tell you how pleased they are! Depending on what you sell, it’s often best to ask:

– within three days after a service has been delivered.

– just after a project has been completed.

– when they say they have received the benefits you promised.

Use your professional judgment

Asking for referrals is just one aspect of doing business. You do everything else well, this should be no exception. A face-to-face request is best. A phone call is the second best. In this manner, you’re more likely to receive quality leads. Always ask for referrals graciously and not in a pushy manner. However, if asking directly for referrals makes you uncomfortable, you can send a letter or e-mail to your customers.

The three-step approach to tapping your customer base
To obtain a substantial number of referrals, you will need to focus first on your existing customer base. Use the following three-step technique:

1. Ask for feedback.

2. Reply to their response with a statement.

3. Ask for the referral professionally and let thm know how much you would appreciate their help BEFORE they reply to your request. Be sure to use their name—it makes your appeal much more personal.

Making a strong case
The following examples of referral questions will help you to phrase your request.Think of your product or service as well as the appropriate words and phrases you can apply (PF = Positive Feedback from the Customer).

“How’s the equipment performing for you?” (PF) “I’m really glad to hear you’re happy. John, do you know others who might have interest in the equipment?”


“Sally, are you pleased with our products and the level of service we’ve provided to you?” (PF) “Needless to say, that’s good to hear. Sally, do you know other dealers who might benefit in the same way?”


(PF) “Is there anything more I can do for you? (PF) Mary, my business is largely based on referrals. Is there anyone you might suggest I contact who would benefit from my help in planning for their future? I’d really appreciate any referrals you might be willing to pass along.”


“How’s the new line selling? “(PF) “I’m really glad it’s doing well for you! Susan, would you be willing to put me in touch with your national buyer, so I might have the opportunity to present the line to him? I’d really appreciate it if you would.”


“How was the feedback on the new model?” (PF) “I knew it would be positive and I’m glad you’re pleased. Sam, is there anyone you might suggest I contact in your other divisions who may also have interest? I’d really appreciate it if you would be kind enough to put me in touch with them.”


“How did my crew perform for you?” (PF) They are a great group, aren’t they? I’m so glad you’re pleased. John, I really appreciate your kind words. Is there anyone you might suggest I contact who may also benefit from our work? I know you belong to the Retail Builders Association and your CFO belongs to the Construction Financial Management Association. Do you or Jack know other GC’s who might benefit from our contracting services? I’d really appreciate any contacts you may be willing to share with me.”


“I’m calling to obtain your feedback. Are you pleased? (PF) Frank, over 75% of my business comes from referrals. Is there anyone you might suggest I contact who may have interest—perhaps your suppliers?”


“It is very gratifying when we hear positive feedback on the quality of our product. Randy, is there anyone you might suggest I contact who has application for our product?”

Who to Ask
You’ll get the best referrals from your ‘A’ clients. ‘B’ clients usually yield ‘B’ prospects. ‘C’ clients usually yield ‘C’ prospects. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, but if you want the best customers, then you need to play the odds.

Pay attention to people your customers know
Be genuinely curious about your customer’s business, personal life, and important relationships. Staying in touch with your best customers creates strong business friendships. Then, when you ask for referrals, ask for an introduction. The best way is to be direct and unassuming. Say something like–“Would you be comfortable introducing me?”

Create referral partnerships
Create alliances with business contacts or associates who do not compete with the product or service you offer. Share leads and create mutually beneficial relationships. Better yet, agree to introduce each other to potential clients. Whatever you do, make sure your partners do right by you.

A word of caution: Customers are hard to come by. Be very selective about the people you refer. If they do not share the same values, and operate with the same level of professionalism and integrity as you do, don’t align yourself with them. If they turn off your customers, it will not only be a bad reflection on you, but you may never be able to do business with that customer again. Also, your alliance should be mutually beneficial. If you find you are referring more business to your partners than they are to you, you may want to rethink your partnership.

Call on past clients
In addition to your existing clients and network of personal and professional contacts, do not forget about your past clients. They can be a substantial resource in building your business and obtaining referrals. First, ask them how they have been doing, if there is anything you can do to help them, and how have they been faring since you last saw them. Then, ask them for referrals.

Follow up FAST
Not long ago, one of my clients was seeking the services of an expert in negotiation skills. I told my client about a colleague who was superlative in his field; I recommended this person call him. My colleague was busy and didn’t get around to calling him for two weeks. By that time, my client had engaged the services of someone else.

In my eyes, this colleague made me look bad to my client. When I asked him why he didn’t call quickly, he stated, “I have so many referral leads sitting on my desk, I can barely keep up with them.” While I was happy for my colleague’s obvious success, I made the decision not to refer business to him in the future.”

This should be common sense: Don’t let referral leads sit on your desk or in your database without acting quickly. Your referral source may have told them about you. Like you, customers have a great deal on their minds. Call quickly or they may have moved on.

If you know you’re going to be busy and you may not have an opportunity to call quickly, take their number with you to call from your cell phone in between appointments or from the airport.

The more you ask, the more you will get
If you are too proud or uncomfortable to ask for referrals, you will lose out on some great possibilities. To build your business, you have always had to take on challenges and move out of your comfort zone. Getting in the habit of asking for referrals is just one more challenge to meet. Interestingly, the more referrals you ask for, the more referrals you’ll get. If customers know you want them and will act on them professionally, they will be inclined to watch out for you. After all, your good future is theirs as well.

Photo Courtesy of (Wicker Paradise) – Flickr

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About Christine Corelli

Christine Corelli is a motivational, keynote, business, leadership, sales, and customer service speaker, sales trainer, and author of six business books. As a keynote speaker, she is known for her high energy and interactive speaking style.

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