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Four Steps That Make Asking For Referrals Easy And Pain-free

Copyright (c) 2007-2021

When it comes to referrals, the most frequent request I get from small business owners is "Do you have a script I can use when I ask my customers to send me referrals?"

Why a script? Because it can feel so darn awkward to ask customers for referrals! And when we feel awkward we either don't ask at all or we ask in a way that is so vague or abrupt that we don't get the results we want.

I don't use a script to ask for referrals--at least not the detailed type of script most folks have in mind. For that reason, I don't have much in the way of scripts to offer when people ask.

Instead I use a simple four-step process to educate my customers around how and when to send me referrals. Why "educate?" Because if you are like me, you have clients who really, really like your work and want you to be successful. But they may not know exactly how to help.

This process is a great way to help your customer do what they want to do: help you and look good at the same time.

Four Steps to Painless Referral Requests

Step #1 Make a Commitment to Tell Your Customers You Want Them to Send You Referrals

This step is more a mind shift step than one that requires specific activity. I find that when I shift my focus from worrying about how I will ask to the fact that I am going to ask, I stop spinning my wheels trying to make so many decisions at once.

Try it out and you'll see what I mean.

Step #2 Use Specific Situations and Problems to Help Your Customers Identify Good Referrals

If your referral sources don't know what a good referral is for you and how to identify a good referral, it will be difficult for them to come up with people to send you.

This may seem counter-intuitive to you because you would think the fewer constraints you give them, the more likely that your referral sources will find someone to send you.

The problem is that when you give people too many choices, they get overwhelmed and simply don't choose at all. A few qualifications actually makes it easier for your customers and colleagues to identify a few specific situations that might be good referrals for you.

Example: Massage Therapist

A massage therapist I know tells her referral sources that she offers pre- and post-natal massages. Women who are pregnant and complain about back pain and muscle pain are great referrals for her as are moms who have recently given birth and need a little baby-free rest and relaxation.

Step #3 Plan How You'll Make Your Request

This isn't exactly a detailed script but it will help you plan how you will ask so that you have confidence around what you will say.

Here's the format:

"When you talk with someone who is struggling with (situation you identified in step #2) tell them you know someone who helps people (brief description of the results you help your customers achieve.)

Here's how the format works for the massage therapist who offers pre- and post-natal massage.

"When you are talking to a mom-to-be who mentions she is having trouble with back pain, tell her you know a massage therapist who helps pregnant women with back pain. Sometimes their back pain goes away completely!"

Some issues to consider when you adapt this format to your own business:

  • Remember that you are coaching your customer on what to say and do when they are with someone who might be a good referral for you.

  • Keep it conversational. The point is to ask for referrals in a way that is natural and comfortable.

  • Talk about results NOT process. Notice in the example the massage therapist doesn't say "I use Reiki and hot stone massage to help pregnant women with back pain."

    Your referral sources can only remember so much about you and your business. It's more important that they can tell prospects the results you produce rather than how you create the results.

  • When it's appropriate give your referral source something tangible to pass on to prospects. Often this is a business card but I encourage you to be creative.

    I've seen business owners use seed packets, double-sided business cards with tips printed on the back, pens with clever sayings, product samples (great if you sell skin care or cosmetics), to name but a few.

    Step #4 Implement and Refine

    Once you have a good idea of how you will ask your referral sources, start asking.

    I recommend that you first try your request out with one or two customers who are your "greatest fans" because they WANT you to succeed and will give you constructive feedback.

    You need to make sure they feel comfortable using the phrasing you created in Step #3. If they aren't comfortable they won't use the phrase and they may not send you referrals. Not because they don't want to. Because they don't want to look dumb because they aren't sure how to tell others about you.

    Bottom Line

    If you have customers who love what you do then you have customers who sincerely want to send you referrals.

    Rather than get hung up on "how" to ask for referrals in a way that doesn't make you look like a pest, look at the request as a way to help your customers who want to help you!

    This is a very different way to think about referrals. It makes your customer a willing partner rather than someone that you are trying to "get" to do something.

    No pain, no strain, and best of all, you'll get referrals.


    About The Author: Shop Amazon - Top Gift Ideas
    Judy Murdoch helps small business owners create low-cost, effective marketing campaigns using word-of-mouth referrals, guerrilla marketing activities, and selected strategic alliances. To download a free copy of the workbook, "Where Does it Hurt? Marketing Solutions to the problems that Drive Your Customers Crazy!" go to http://www.judymurdoch.com/workbook.htm
    You can contact Judy at 303-475-2015 or judy@judymurdoch.com

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