Ask anybody who’s been in business a long time and they’ll tell you how crucial repeat and referral business has been to their success.
It’s not hard to get someone to do business with you once, but the trick is to be good enough for them to not only do business with you twice, but to recommend you to others. You need to forge connections with people who can send business your way, and you need to do it all the time.
Certainly, it’s always nice when someone spontaneously refers you to others, but rather than counting on spontaneity, what can you do to encourage your clients to send you referrals? I’d say the most important way is to ensure that you’re going to make the person referring you look good to their peers.
People give references for many reasons, and being directly compensated isn’t always their primary motivation. It’s been my experience that people often take pleasure in being perceived as “well connected” and “knowing a guy” and will provide referrals to friends and colleagues because of the gratification they feel that comes from pointing someone in the right direction. It indirectly improves their status and can work in their favor when they need referrals for themselves.
If you have a well deserved reputation for doing great work, then that’s the first link in the chain to effectively networking with other companies. And in order to be “the guy” you need to do exceptional work and to exceed client expectations. That may sound obvious, but if you want people to recommend your services, you need to be worth recommending. Personally, I refer friends and acquaintances to businesses that I know are going to take care of them, and by extension, make me look good for pointing them in the right direction.
So, you do amazing work, and your clients are thrilled. At this point the most crucial step is to actually ask them for a recommendation.
You already know that if you want something, you need to ask for it, but you’ll be most successful at getting referrals when you ask at the right time and in the right way. I have a specific method that was handed down to me by one of my old mentors that is simple and straightforward, and yet it works like a charm.
The time to ask for referrals is after you’ve completed your project, such as the follow up after an installation is completed. When your client has acknowledged their satisfaction, then you can say to them “I’m glad that you like it. I would like to ask you for one small favor. Let me give you two of my business cards for you to keep in your wallet. If, in your day to day, the subject comes up with one of your friends or acquaintances, I would be honored if you would think of me and pass one of my cards on to them!”
Just like anything else that you learn from a book or course on sales or self-improvement, you are going to need to practice it and adapt it to your own style and nature. But I’ve done it this way for years and it works!