Asking for referrals is necessary but can be tricky. Some salespeople may feel awkward about asking for praise from clients, even though it will help influence new business in the future. There are also times when you may think you can ask for a referral, but it would be in your best interest if you waited. Brian Ahearn discusses a few of the finer points of asking for referrals in a recent SellingPower article.
How to Make the Question Less Random
If you’re unsure of how to start a conversation about referrals, Ahearn recommends prefacing it with a question in your paperwork at the time of sale. Add a question about willingness to provide referrals in the future to a new client’s paperwork. If they respond that they’re willing to give referrals, that’s your in. After about six months (a good amount of time for a new client to get the full experience of the product or service, as well as your customer service), give them a call. Check in on them and then ask if they remember that section of the paperwork before asking if they’d be willing to write a referral. Simple as that!
A Big Do-Not
Remember the waiting six months before reaching out portion of Ahearn’s advice? Commit it to memory so that you don’t botch a sale by asking for a referral too soon. Once a sale is closed, Ahearn points out that, “your new client is more concerned with whether or not they have just made a good choice than they are with helping you.” Not only will you seem pushy, which can affect whether or not that client will continue to do business with you, you’re also overlooking the fact that you haven’t given them much to base a referral on yet. You have helped them realize that your product or service can be of value to their company and now you’re suddenly pushing for a review. That will be all they know about you at that time. That information won’t make for a stellar review. Wait until you’ve proven yourself so that they can give you a well-deserved and well-rounded referral.