It was a gorgeous day here in Northern Virginia yesterday, perfect for having a meeting outside with two business partners/friends/teammates over Rita's Italian ice.
We had a great discussion about how to ask for referrals. When do you ask, how do you ask, what do you say. How often to follow up, pop by, send notes. There were a lot of "Buffini-says" moments in the conversation.
One thing we kept coming back to was being afraid of asking for the referral. On the surface, it may not look like that, but when you break it down, it is.
I'm afraid they will say no.
I'm afraid it will be awkward.
I'm afraid they will think I'm super sales-y.
I'm afraid they will think that is the only thing I care about.
The reality is, that if this is someone you know or have done business with before (and liked) they aren't going to be rude or say no to your face. Yes, it may feel awkward (to you) at first, but if you find something to say that works for you, it won't come across overly sales-y or not genuine.
Many, many (10?) years ago I started saying that I did business by referral. Now at the time, I actually did very little business by referral (I was on a rainmaker-style team), but it felt comfortable to me to introduce the idea of referrals by saying that. And before you knew it, I was doing a significant amount of business by referral, and for the past 7 years, the highest percentage of my business is repeat clients and referrals.
I'm not always the best at asking for the order myself. Haven't we all had those moments at the settlement table when you see the opening for you to ask for the referral, but you can't get the words out of your mouth? I know I've been there.
I'm also a big believer in "teaching" people how to refer me. When I look back over my business, when someone refers me once (and I handle it well), they are much more likely to do it again and again. You need to reward the behavior. Even if the "referral" is simply the friend/past client saying they gave someone my name, I immediately follow up with a handwritten note thanking them for their trust in me, reminding them that referrals are the heart of my business and including a little something.
How (and when) do you ask for referrals in your business?