Okay, let’s talk about crazy.
Referrals are gold. We all know that. And the people who refer their friends, family, and associates to you are happy to do it. They feel good about it.
They like you and your work, and they want to tell other people about you, so the people close to them can get some of the benefits you’ve given them. Sweet. Word of mouth … yes!
Alas, unprompted referrals are rare. Why? Partly because people just don’t think about it, and partly because we send out the wrong signal to clients and friends when they ask us how we’re doing.
Them: “Oh, okay, well, then I guess you wouldn’t want any new business if you’re slammed already.” That’s what people are thinking.
That’s the sad part.
Here’s the crazy part.
While every practitioner is happy to receive referrals, not that many are willing to ask for them.
Why? Well, you tell me.
Do you think it’s inappropriate? Does it just feel a little awkward, like you’re begging for something? Do you have some sense that you’re an imposter and maybe not worthy? After all, how can you ask for referrals if you have doubts about your own capabilities?
Hmmm. Here’s a hint you might get from those questions. It’s almost always a psychological thing.
Now, of course, you have to deliver the goods. If you aren’t able to provide top notch service right now for whatever reason, then, by all means, don’t ask for referrals.
People take a risk any time they make a recommendation. Their credibility is on the line if anything goes wrong, so you’re not going to get referrals unless people are totally confident you’re going to deliver superior service. That’s a given.
But here’s what I see happening. Practitioners DO provide a great service, but don’t see it as being as valuable as the client does! They take what they do for granted. They don’t get how impactful, even life-changing, the work they’re doing is for people.
And so they don’t ask if their current clients know of anyone who would benefit from working with them.
Okay, so maybe you’ll never be comfortable asking for referrals, but what if you could get comfortable? What if there’s a way of approaching “the ask” that makes it work … for you and the client?
A big key is mindset. People need you and it’d be tragic if they go to someone who doesn’t serve them as well as you can. You have to believe that.
Another key is timing. The best time to ask is when a client is thanking you for a job well done. It’s a natural progression. All you need to do is say something like, “You’re most welcome. It was great working with you. By the way, we’re always on the lookout for people we can help. Do you know of anyone who’s struggling with …?”
If they do, the next key is to get your current client as actively involved in putting you and your prospect together as you can. That takes the burden off you, so you don’t feel as if you’re calling out of the blue.
“That’s great. I appreciate your confidence in me. If you don’t mind my asking, would you be willing to arrange a three way meeting, so s/he can get the full picture of what I do and how I can help from your perspective as well as mine?”
Okay, that’s the holy grail. Is that a lot to ask? No, and hey, they can always decline.
Next best is to ask them to call the referral … before you do … and urge them to meet with you. Or ask them for an email introduction.
And if the best you can do is to use your client’s name when you call and say he highly recommended that you talk, that’s okay. It’s just not as effective. And, be sure you’re not in violation of your ethics code if you’re calling someone unsolicited.
The keys to getting referrals are to be open to them and to ask for them. The key to asking for them is to make it a comfortable, natural process where you appear in their world as an answer to a problem … or a prayer … as opposed to a stranger calling out of the blue.
You can make it work.