Everyone talks about needing referrals, but it is not always clear what a good referral
is. The subject gets even murkier when you’re talking about the characteristics of a
GREAT referral. How does one create and maintain a steady stream of GREAT
referrals? Let’s set the stage by clarifying the difference between “good” and “GREAT.”
Good Referral – someone gives you a referral name and gives you permission to use
their name when you are calling.
The GREATEST referrals come from your best source: old clients, who introduce you
to new prospects. This leverages your loyal clients into being your sales force. So the
absolute key to generating GREAT referrals is retaining your clients over time. The
other crucial factor is learning how to use your entire sphere of relationships to work
for you. Your network is your most valuable marketing and sales asset.
There are some clear steps to building momentum to GREAT referrals. First review
your inventory. Whom do you know? Are there types or categories amongst your
contacts? Being able to classify those you know, and then clearly define the kinds of
referrals you need, will help you immeasurably in communicating to others:
- To whom they should refer you, and
- How to refer to you
The toughest piece of all of this is the moment of truth – asking for the referral. To
make it work, you need to make it simple and make it consistent. Here is a key
question that works and is easy to deliver:
I’m expanding my business. Do you know anyone who is (having trouble reaching
new markets, or getting the right performance from their line managers, or…)?
The phrase that is subtle but powerful is “Do you know anyone who…” It’s not asking
for help, it’s inviting the person to think. A request for help could get you a
refusal. However, asking someone to think is like asking his or her opinion. It’s rare
that any of us don’t appreciate having our opinion asked!
The positioning of the second half of this question is crucial. It needs to be open-ended,
rather than closed. Remember, a closed ended question results in a “yes” or a
“no.” You are not looking for a yes or no. You are looking for information. Put your
request for info into the form of a question which should be about what you provide, not
what you need. This bears repeating. Part two of the question should be about what
you PROVIDE, not about what you NEED.
So if you are a marketing person, the question could be phrased “Do you know anyone
who is having trouble getting new clients to try their product?” If you are a training company,
the question could be phrased “Do you know anyone who is having trouble getting new
managers up to speed on leading a team?”
Notice that nowhere in this question is there any information about you, your business,
or your expertise. You are asking for someone to think about what you provide,
without “telling” him or her what you provide. Sound crazy? It’s not!
Getting GREAT referrals is all about knowing what to ask, how to ask it, and then
closing your mouth and REALLY listening. If you make someone who could refer
you to the right people part of the process, you engage him or her at a level that
asking for a live introduction only seems natural and right. It puts you in a referral
partnership where the benefit of the referral accrues to both of you. The referrer looks
good for bringing you to their colleague’s attention, and you look much more credible,
having been ushered in with a trusted source.
Try this in both business and non-business situations – it really can be a way of life that
powers your business in a direction that will make the rest of your life a whole lot more
–Lisa D. Dennis
© Knowledgence Associates, 2003 / All Rights Reserved