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How to Earn Customer Referrals: Two Smart Steps

Author: Kendra Lee

The majority of buyers report that they overwhelmingly trust word-of-mouth recommendations from peers and colleagues. These referrals drive purchasing decisions more than most other factors.

You know that referrals are a great way to keep your pipeline filled with qualified leads, but when you ask, you strike out.

“Sure, I’m happy to refer you – just as soon as I think of someone,” they reply without fully meeting your eyes when asked. Or, clients tell you they don’t know anybody to refer. Or, that nobody has mentioned to them that they have a problem. I even had one client tell me that she doesn’t socialize much because she’s an introvert, so she didn’t know anyone she could refer!

Clients have lots of excuses, and you’ve heard them all. Yet, it isn’t that clients don’t want to refer you. They really do. Who doesn’t like to help someone if they can?

Your clients want to help you, especially if they love your service. They just don’t know who to refer you to when you ask.

If you want referrals you have to do more than ask. You have to set your client up for success and cultivate a referral-giving state of mind. Use these two simple steps to do that.

Step 1: Ask for referrals on a consistent basis.

If your clients don’t have someone in mind, then they’re not used to you asking. Incorporate asking for referrals into your sales and account management processes. When clients know you’re going to ask, they’ll be better prepared to answer.

People don’t like not having an answer when asked a question. This is true when asking for referrals, too. By asking consistently you cause your clients to start listening for referral opportunities in their everyday communications with other business owners.

Step 2: Make sure they know who makes a good referral.

Sometimes, clients have no idea who would be a good referral for you. They either misjudge who they think is a good fit, or they don’t bring you anyone at all. They could have a dozen of potential prospects that are perfect for your services, but they don’t realize it. It’s up to you to educate and guide them along.

When you ask for referrals, share these three qualifiers to help your clients identify potential referrals for you:

  1. Which companies are the best fit for you. To refer you, your client needs to know what kind of companies you work with. For instance, they might not realize that you also provide HIPAA-compliance solutions to the healthcare industry. Meanwhile, they’ve seen quite a few issues with how their own physician handles patient records. Share company size, geographical areas and industries that are ideal matches for you.
  2. Who your ideal contact is. There may be specific staff members that see the value of your services over others. If you typically work with business owners, the CFO, or the office manager, let your client know. Share that these contacts appreciate how well you understand their business, the recommendations you provide, and as such, are the best person for you to speak with in a company.
  3. The business issues you solve. As you share which contacts appreciate talking with you, also share the business issues you solve. Start with issues that you’ve solved for your client. Then make sure they know the broad scope of your solutions so they recognize what services to refer you for when they hear a need. These conversations frequently lead to an “oh, I didn’t know you did that” moment, making them a perfect opportunity to cross or upsell with your client.

Your clients love you. They want to give you referrals. They just need some guidance on exactly who to refer – along with a consistent reminder of how much you value their referrals. When you start asking consistently using these two steps, you’ll see your referrals increase.

Gone are the questioning looks and avoidance tactics. Your clients will know exactly who to look for as referrals. And they can count on you to remind them to share. Put your clients in a referral-giving state of mind and you’ll find yourself with a steady stream of warm prospects.

If asking for referrals isn’t your strength, we can help you craft a simple consultative approach that is comfortable for you and get referral results. If you’d like to talk about your referral strategy, contact us and let’s discuss it.


Kendra Lee is president of KLA Group, which works with companies to break in and exceed revenue objectives in the Small and Midmarket Business (SMB) segment. Read more blogs from Kendra here.

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