Why you’re not getting that referral

October 17, 2011

Guest posts, Social media

You've probably seen a graphic like this before on the value of referrals to your business. But do you know how to ask for them? (Image credit: ajaxjoshi.wordpress.com)


The following is a guest post by Greta Schulz, president and CEO of Schulz Business.

Referrals are one of the biggest ways to bring in extra business. This is nothing new. So, why is it that so many businesses don’t put any action into getting them?

People like to talk about themselves, and people like to talk about exciting things that are happening. That’s basically what social media is anyway, right? A bunch of people telling others what they found to be interesting or exciting. Other than word of mouth, social media is one of the biggest arenas for people exchanging information, and that includes recommending a good company with which to work.

Too many people think that all you have to do to get good referrals is produce good work. But if that was all it took, then most businesses wouldn’t be in a pickle because most business do good work. But when you boil it down to the basics, there are really only two main reasons why you’re not getting referrals:

  1. You don’t ask for them.
  2. You don’t ask for them specifically.

It’s basic Field of Dreams, deductive reasoning logic: If you build it, they’re going to come. But if you don’t build it? Then, they’re probably not going to come. You may have hundreds of Facebook friends or thousands of Twitter followers but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to be getting hundreds of referrals.

How to ask specifically
So, how do you build it? Sure, it could be that you’re just not asking people to recommend you. But sometimes people need a bigger push than that.

Asking for referrals is the idea of relaying specific verbal triggers or visual pictures that someone might see or hear that will make them think about you and your business. How do you create those triggers and pictures? Think of the things that you see or hear a prospect do or say that makes you immediately think to yourself, “Boy, I can help them with that.” Well, that is the trigger, and the more specific you can be the better.

Say you’re in the type of business that does a lot of different things, like a full-service web development company. For one client, you could be building them a mobile application. For another, you’re building a full website with an ecommerce system. And for another, you’re working on their social media campaign.

You wouldn’t ask the client you built the mobile app for to recommend your social media services. Why? Because they can’t speak passionately about it. But you can bet that if you did a stellar app for them, they’re going to want to show it off, and they’re going to want to talk about it – talk about it to other people who may want a mobile app.

When to ask specifically

Figuring out how to ask for referrals is only half the battle. You also need to know when to ask for them. Asking for a referral at the wrong time is almost as bad as not asking for one altogether.

You should already have a follow-up process in place once you finish work —Entreprenuer.com has a good article about perfecting one. When you call in to check up on the client to make sure things went well (and they agree), close the call by “Glad to hear we exceed your expectations. If you know someone else who could use some Web development services, we’d greatly appreciate you referring us.” If you really did blow them away, they won’t have a problem passing your name along.

A client doesn’t just say they loved your work at the end of the process though. Whenever someone gives you good feedback, they’re giving you an opening to ask them for a referral. Capitalize on it, instead of just saying “Thanks,” and giving yourself a pat on the back. Compliments are great, but referrals are what makes you money.

Greta Schulz is a nationally recognized Florida sales speaker, contributing author of New York Times’ bestseller, Master of Sales, and columnist of Sellutions that appears in more than 30 business journals. She’s the president and CEO of the sales consulting company, Schulz Business.

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