How to Build a Steady Stream of Referrals Right Now

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It’s easy to assume that your clients will refer you—after all they chose to do business with you and we all know you are AH-MAZ-ING! Right?!?!

Yeah, not so much.

Just because your clients chose to do business with you, doesn’t mean they will refer you. That is a fact.

You already know that a customer will share a bad experience with a company at three times the rate of a positive experience. So first a client has to have liked doing business with you—that’s different than getting alike on social media by the way.

Contrary to popular belief, you actually don’t want satisfied clients. Yes satisfied clients are loyal clients, and they are also low referring clients. In a study conducted by Absolute Engagement, only 20% of satisfied clients gave referrals. While 98% of engaged clients gave referrals. An engaged client is one that has KiLT, as I call it—they know you, like you, trust you, and see your value (it’s the blue ribbon under the kilt). I want engaged clients—to me, they are also way more fun to work with.

Second, you have to have given them a reason to remember you or think of you in a referral situation. If you were so plain-Jane to work with that probably means that you are forgettable. If you are forgettable, then how are you going to be top of mind? And, did you really provide them value?

The reality is, your brand and your ability to receive a steady flow of referrals is all based on your reputation. What and how do your customers think about your business? What do they think about the services that you provide? How do they talk to others about the value that you have given them? The answer to these questions reveals what your reputation is in the market. It also reveals the likelihood of generating a steady stream of referrals.

The challenge here is that if you just ask, you’ll most likely hear the boilerplate, “It’s great. You’re great. It was fine. I’m satisfied.” Remember, we don’t want satisfied clients. Your challenge is to get them to go deeper and divulge their truth. There are a couple of ways to do this, including hiring someone (like me) to get them to talk. People are more willing to open up and share the good, the bad, and the ugly with a third party than they are with you—it’s a safety thing. They don’t want to hurt your feelings.

Another way to do this is by getting them on the phone (actually talking instead of texting) and ask them how they are doing and what challenges they are dealing with right now. Maybe you can help them with a service that you offer or, you know someone who can. Make sure to explain why you think this person is a good match and offer to do an introduction. You’re helping them solve an immediate problem that they have. Another way is by asking a question like, “Based on your experience with me, would you recommend me to others.”

Many business owners are afraid to ask for referrals. “I don’t know how to do it without sounding pushy or needy.” They often feel like they don’t know if they’ve provided value. They don’t want to show up "like a salesperson". Wait…hold on…let’s stop right here. You are in business to make money, you don’t make money, you go out of business. It really is that simple. A referral is worth 10-15x of a cold call. You don’t have to be sleazy when you ask. You do need to believe that you provide value.

Repeat after me, “I BELIEVE IN THE VALUE THAT I PROVIDE.”

Get over your fear. You do provide value and asking for referrals is mostly about getting out of your own way and inviting the people that you have enjoyed working with the most, to share their experience with others—think of it as finally figuring out how to clone your best and most favorite clients. Like attracts like and rarely does a referral of a favorite client result in a client you can’t wait to get rid of.

Go ahead and start asking. I have it printed on all of my invoices, it’s a part of my regular interaction with clients and I do a direct ask when we’re done working together.

So, based on your experience with me, would you recommend me to others? Who do you know who would benefit from building their brand worthy of going viral?