There's the old joke about the two buzzards sitting in a
tree overlooking a highway. One responds to the other, "Be
patient? I'm hungry. Let's kill something." Just like that
buzzard, it is not in the nature of most marketers to be
patient for business to grow. They want to go out and "kill
The trouble is that most marketers go after new business the
wrong way. They want to "take down" the new piece of
business using all the tools of the trade from advertising
and direct mail to cold calling and event marketing. This is
an expensive way to drum up business. Your existing clients
are just waiting to tell you about people they know who
could use your services, and then help sell you in to these
people they refer. Not only is this more cost effective, it
practically guarantees the prospects will share the same
characteristics of your best customers.
"OK, Harry," you're asking, "but how do I do it?"
The first rule of getting referrals: ask. When should you
ask? Let's review.
- After your customer has purchased something from you is a
great time to ask. The new customer is pumped up about your
offering and you can harness that energy by asking for names
of others who could beneft from doing business with you.
- Upon delivery of your product or service is the next time
to ask. The benefits of your offering should be readily
apparent now, so you can remind the customer of the
importance of their referrals.
- Anytime you have personal contact with your customer is a
good time to ask. You are continuing to build a relationship
with them and can use the opportunity to ask for referrals.
Don't ask more than three times per year.
Many people hesitate to ask for referrals because they are
not sure how to do it. Just be honest. Tell your customers
that referrals are very important to the growth of your
business, and that you want to grow it with people just like
them. Remind them that the people they know will benefit
from your service the way that they have. Then, ask.
Tell your prospect that you'd like for them to give you the
names of three or four people who might benefit from your
services. Pull out a sheet of paper and pen and look
expectantly at them. If they can't immediately give you
names, ask some prompting questions. Such as:
Who are your three best friends?
Who are the most successful business people you know?
Can you think of anyone who would benefit from my services?
Write the names down and keep writing until the customer
runs out of names. Then, go back and ask for contact
information for each one.
Thank the customer in the way you feel most comfortable.
Some people like to send a gift, others will just drop a
note of thanks. Some wait to see if the referral becomes a
customer and then send a higher end gift. Do whatever works
for you, but do thank them and keep them in the loop,
letting them know about your follow up and the outcome of
So, don't just sit there in your tree. Get out there and
Harry Hoover is managing principal of Hoover ink PR, http://www.hoover-ink.com. He has 26 years of experience in crafting and delivering bottom line messages that ensure success for serious businesses like Brent Dees Financial Planning, Duke Energy, Levolor, New World Mortgage, North Carolina Tourism, VELUX and Verbatim.