Have you ever had a great relationship with a client or customer, everything went perfectly, and you knocked the deal out of the park? When that happened, did you ask that client or customer for a review? A reference letter? How about a referral to another business owner in a similar market?
No? Why not?
I know why: because even though we say we’re interested in knowing how customers feel about our business and what their experience with us was like, we’re still afraid. We’re afraid to hear we dropped the ball, afraid they’ll say no, afraid that, deep down, they don’t like us at all. We become high school kids again, all insecure and unsure of ourselves.
Well, it’s time to stop the fearful behavior and ask your customers for their opinion. It’s time to prepare to be flattered, or to be informed of your shortcomings. I hate to hear bad stuff as much as you do, but I’d rather they tell me outright instead of cancel my services and leave me wondering why. I want them to give me a chance to get it right.
But do you know what usually happens when I ask them?
They’re happy to oblige. They’ve allowed us to come alongside their business and help them grow their market share, and they’re grateful. They’re happy to share their experience with others, and thrilled that their opinion matters to you and your business.
So if you knew that you were killing it and your customers loved your product or service, would you be comfortable asking them for a referral or a LinkedIn recommendation? It’s tough, I agree. We’re always afraid of rejection and the vulnerability associated with the “ask”. But this has to be part of your process, especially today. We all read reviews and recommendations to decide when and where to place our well-earned money. If you’re not doing asking for these, you’re missing out on business.
But How Do I Ask for a Recommendation?
Great question. Here are some options:
- LinkedIn – This is an easy ask; the platform does all of the hard work.
- Survey – This can be a simple three-question survey that allows your clients to give you feedback (see example).
- Email a review link – A Google or Facebook review link works best.
- Just Ask – This old-fashioned tactic works great.
How Do I ask for a Referral?
This is a harder ask. Your clients have developed great connections and networks over the years, built relationships of trust and respect, and this cannot be taken lightly. When you ask them for a referral, please structure it properly:
- “Bob, who do you know that could also benefit from our professional services?”
- “Bob, now that we have established this mutually beneficial business relationship, who in your circle of influence would you think would also be a good fit with our company?”
- “Bob, I really admire your business culture and integrity and would love to have more clients just like you. Do you have any recommendations?”
There are a hundred different ways to ask for a referral, but make sure you honor the current business relationship.
Once they drop their guard and make the connection, be sure to protect your current client. Do not cross-share any info. The referrer and referee will talk and compare notes, so be sure to never violate any trust or confidentiality just because one of them recommended you. Don’t share horror stories of how this client does things wrong or differently. It’s juvenile, and they will wonder what you’re sharing about their business. Respect each business as if it was your only client, and the referrals will begin flowing in. And once you prove your excellent customer service to each new client, go back and ask them for a referral. This will add up to a ton of loyal and like-minded clients that fit perfectly with your culture.
Last but not least, remember to say “thank you”, whether you gained the business or not. Your clients went out of their way to help your business – so if you got the business, send them a gift and handwrite them a thank-you card. If their referral decided not to move forward with your company, send them a card telling them how you appreciated the opportunity and remind them you are available for any of their friends who may need their help.
What about asking contacts who are not my clients?
Friends and family can be a good source of referral business if they know exactly what you do and who you serve. Treat them the same way you would a client. Remember to ask them for referrals. You would not believe how many friends send me business because they know who I serve and how I serve them. Be quick to acknowledge them when they send you a referral. A thank-you note would seem silly to a friend, but maybe a gift card to a local restaurant or business would let them know you appreciate them and their belief in your business.
I have a great friend I met through the local chamber of commerce. She’s constantly cheerleading for my business and sending people to me. I adore her for this! We would be friends even if she never sent me a client, but the fact that she loves my business model and feels confident enough in my skills and my team to refer everyone she knows to me is priceless. We all need brand ambassadors – and when you find one, let them know you appreciate them.
That reminds me, I need to get Dorothy a gift card to Del Rio!
If you follow these simple steps and repeat them often, you will soon see your business flourish.
Robin Wilson is the co-owner of SCP Agency.
She is a self-proclaimed social media guru and specializes in social marketing for auto dealerships. She has also been instrumental in teaching auto dealerships how to market through social media to their existing database and shows them how to make sure that they do not become victims of conquest marketing. She is a marketing coach to all and has become a leader in Facebook marketing strategies in the U.S.