What’s the No. 1 driver of your future success? The rave reviews of your past and present clients. Ever since ancient societies started trading with one another, sales professionals have been gaining new business from word of mouth.
That’s right — no matter how much you experiment with modern marketing methods and new lead generation strategies, the creation of referrals from your very own network brings you the biggest, quickest and most authentic return on your marketing investment.
I know that you would LOVE to have an endless flood of referred clients and would do just about anything to make this happen. Yet for the majority of business owners and sales professionals, there is just one HUGE reason why they fail to gain the referrals they deserve:
They simply fail to ask their existing contacts to open the doors to their network.
What’s stopping you from asking? It tends to come down to one of the following three things:
- You’re LAZY, complacent, and can’t be bothered…
- You don’t know WHEN to ask…
- You don’t know HOW to ask.
My guess is that Option 1 does not apply to you. If it did, you wouldn’t be reading this article. Therefore, if you knew the answer to the other two questions, then you’d probably be fully equipped to ask more often.
It’s often said that it’s not what you say — it’s how (and when) you say it. For many people, the fear of choosing an imperfect moment to introduce an idea is the point of anxiety that stops them from mentioning it at all. Well, in my work, I am renowned for helping others to know exactly what to say, when to say it and how to make it count. Let’s see if today we can help you understand how this guidance relates perfectly to referrals.
When is the right time to ask?
Here’s the short answer: when your prospect or client is happy. The difficulty with this answer is that there are quite literally dozens of examples in which this could be the case, like the point of sale, at a success milestone or even after resolving a complaint, to name just a few. This abundance of opportunity creates a sense of option paralysis and usually results in an inability to ask them that one key question.
A better answer is to perk up your ears and listen hard for one simple phrase. This phrase is a coherent clue that this person is not only happy with what you’ve done for them, but also feels indebted to you in that moment to a point where they may even feel like they owe you some reciprocity. There is NO better time to ask for something than when the other person feels indebted.
Those words for which you must listen are… thank you.
Now, when you receive this sign of appreciation, please don’t pat yourself on the back and think, “I’m done now.” Instead, understand that this is your perfect moment to ask for more.
Now that you understand the precise timing of the request, we should probably explore a structured and powerful way of putting it on the table.
How Can You Ask for Referrals?
The subconscious brain is a powerful thing, particularly in the sales process. It works a bit like a computer. Rather than little ones and zeroes, it only produces a simple “yes” or “no.” “Maybe” does not exist. Having the ability to trigger an instant decision from your client or prospect delivers you a fair advantage in communication and can often allow you to get your way more often.
To lead you to the exact right set of words, you must first learn the power of a simple set of “Magic Phrases” that can be used to get people to agree to a task before they even know what it is!
Once they’ve said “thank you,” they’ve provided your cue to ask the first question:
“You couldn’t do me a small favor, could you?”
This quick question elicits an almost certain agreeable response and gives you instant permission to continue with the rest of your request.
“You wouldn’t happen to know…”
The phrasing here throws down a challenge. Your client or prospect now feels compelled to prove you wrong.
“ …just one person…”
“Just one” sounds reasonable. Since it seems like such an easy ask, they’re more likely to think of someone by name.
“ …someone just like you…”
This clarification has the person narrowing down their options so you’ll actually get the right prospect. Plus, it pays them a subtle compliment that won’t go unnoticed.
“ …who would benefit from…”
And then emphasize the specific benefit or positive experience for which they’ve just thanked you.
Then… shut up!
Once they’ve thought of somebody, you will probably be able to see that certainty in their body language and movement.
At this point say, “Don’t worry, I’m not looking for their details right now, but who was it that you’re thinking of?”
Saying “don’t worry” automatically takes the pressure off, and the “but” helps them to only recall the final part of the sentence.
Then, you can find out when they’re next likely to see the person they’ve just mentioned. But before you start, ask, “You couldn’t do me another favor, could you?” After they’ve said yes the first time, they’re more likely to say yes again so they can keep up the reputation they’ve built with you.
Once they do, follow up with, “Next time you see Steve, could you share with him a little bit about how it was doing business with me and see if perhaps he’s open-minded to taking a phone call from me to see if I can help him in the same way I helped you?”
After your prospect almost certainly agrees, ask, “Would it be okay if I give you a call next week and find out how the chat went with Steve?”
This goes off without a hitch. You then call him when you said you would and calmly, not accusingly, say, “I’m guessing you didn’t get around to speaking to Steve?”
As a person of their word, they will either proudly tell you how they have already spoken with Steve, or will be embarrassed and tell you how they plan to go on to complete the introduction.
The magical thing is that if you slow this process down, you can often speed the outcome up. It provides you with qualified future customers who already have third-party assurance of your offerings and permission to make contact. I don’t know about you, but I’d take that over a name and a number any day of the week.