It’s easy to overlook your current customers as sources of new business. But you don’t want to make that mistake. You need referrals. There’s no way around it. No matter what business you’re in, you thrive on that one customer telling someone about your service, thereby driving them to your site, store, or conference.
The unfortunate part of this cycle is that no matter how good your business is, it’s hard to seek out referrals without coming across as desperate, needy, or slick, like a used car salesman. We all need them, but nobody wants to talk about them.
Luckily, we learned a ton about B2B referrals recently when we interviewed Donald Kelly, founder of The Sales Evangelist about customer referrals. He’s full of wisdom on how to grow your business, get your clients to give you referrals and do it all without sacrificing your dignity in the process.
We came away with three simple things you can do to double your customer referrals.
1) Ask for Referrals
Wait, just ask? Can it really be that simple?
It can. Most clients, provided that they’re happy with your work, are more than happy to talk about you. They just don’t always think about it. Like you, they get busy. Deadlines come, and they focus on other things.
In this vein, there are three reasons why this seems to be the biggest hurdle for a business.
1) They forget to ask
Sometimes, it really is this simple. Deadlines come, projects get amplified, and asking for referrals becomes something you’ll do “when you get the time.” Make the time. Set a reminder in your calendar. Tell yourself that you’ll reach out and ask for three referrals a week. Go to your sales manager and tell them you want to get more referrals and ask them to hold you to it.
2) They’re fearful of rejection
We know this one all too well: “If I ask, they’ll just say no.”
Put this to the test. Most people who have a positive experience with a company, be it a store, a restaurant, or a service, are more than willing to talk about it. They’ll tell their friends.
Think of the last time you received stellar service at a restaurant. What did you do? You went and told your friends. You posted something to Twitter. You told people.
Your clients will do the same.
3) They don’t know how to ask
This one is big. It’s awkward to email a client months later and say, “Hey, remember me? Would you mind telling your friends and colleagues about me?”
Think like a client. Check out their LinkedIn page. See if there are mutual connections there, and make the ask there.
Make it easy for them to help you out. If you need to, build the email for them. Send an introductory email to them, and ask if they’ll forward it to others and CC you on the communication. You’ve done all the work, all they have to do is click “send.”
Nine times out of ten, they’ll be more than happy to oblige.
2. Think About Your Yield (Think Big)
Nobody ever grew their business by thinking small. Nobody ever made it big by saying to themselves, “Well, I don’t want to bother people.”
Referrals are a part of business. You know it. Your clients know it. So go big.
Ask your client who their top five vendors are. Explain that as you grow your business, you want to connect with more vendors.
When they point you in the right direction, don’t immediately go for the ask. Volley up, and give the potential client a referral before you ask for one. Something like, “Our mutual client X referred me to you, and I’d like to introduce myself. I work with Y and think you guys might make a great fit.”
Once you’ve made that connection, you open the door to ask for your own referral.
3. Capitalize on the Groups
No matter what you’re selling, there’s a group for it. From cars, to software, to medical supplies, to sponges, if it exists, there’s a group devoted to it.
Find out what groups your clients belong to, and ask for introductions to the presidents of those groups. Put yourself in front of the decision-makers.
Go to events and do speaker introductions. Chances are, you can talk these people up.
Say you intro a speaker at a conference. You’re not the speaker, you’re not responsible for content, but all of a sudden, people recognize you and want to chat with you. What better time to promote your business?
We know that marketing yourself and your business can be hard. It can be a challenge to grow your business and ask for referrals without feeling desperate or sales-y.
But with the right tools, you can not only grow your client base, but do so in a way that is professional and drives more and more people to your front door.
This post is based on an interview with Donald Kelly from The Sales Evangelist.