People will freely give referrals when they have benefited from your product/service and have an established relationship with you.
This rarely occurs during the initial meeting because, whilst they may like you, they haven’t yet validated what you can do for them. That’s why asking for referrals should be when the relationship you have established is a strong enough relationship to ensure their trust and belief in you.
Assessing the strength of your existing customer relationships can be very subjective, unless there is a meaningful set of relationship criteria in place.
Although these will vary from organisation to organisation, they may include factors like:
- Communication frequency with key influencers
- Satisfaction with product/service
- Speed of response to queries/problems
- Length of relationship
The customers with the highest scores (based on the relationship criteria) are those that should be approached for referrals.
What is the best way of generating referrals?
- Prepare a description, in the form of a criteria list that specifies the type of person or organisation that you are looking to approach. This should be based on the profile of your “Ideal Customer.”
- Evaluate all your customers, using relationship criteria, and identify a list of those with the highest scores. For every customer, your aim is to generate a minimum of five referrals. Therefore, if you have 25 customers on your list, your target number of referrals will be 125.
- Contact each customer on your list and take the pressure of them by explaining that you don’t want to sell to them – you would like their help. For example: “Do you know anyone who is (specify your criteria) that would be interested in learning about how our products/services can benefit them?” Preface your question with a softener such as: “I wonder if you can help me” or “I would really appreciate some advice.”
- When customers give you referrals, ask their permission to use their name when making contact. Alternatively, where your relationship is ‘rock solid’, ask customers to make the initial introduction by letter or email. Often customers will give a glowing testimonial and create a relevant context when introducing people.
- Thank customers for referrals and keep them appraised of your progress.This creates a positive association towards the giving of more referrals in the future.