Why I Hate Asking For Referrals (And What I Do Instead)
I just read an article in Entrepreneur Magazine by one of the most respected marketing folks in the industry. Normally, I really like the writer’s work but I have to disagree with him this time.
In the article, the author suggests that you should ask every customer for referrals to their friends and colleagues. I think that is one of the worst mistakes an entrepreneur can make.
When a person buys something from you, an exchange takes place. You give them goods or services and, in return, they give you an amount of money they feel is equal to the value of what you have given them. It’s an even trade of value and you have created a balance in your relationship.
If you then immediately turn around and ask for a referral, you are asking for more than you have earned. You are basically telling the client, “Hey, I know you have more to give me in exchange for nothing from me. Give me your relationships!”
Is it any wonder that highly ethical people find asking for referrals immediately after a sale icky and uncomfortable?
To combat the feeling of ickiness, many sales trainers suggest giving something, such as a discount or coupon, to your client in exchange for the referral. This amounts to a referral fee and, while that works for a few clients, it makes most feel like they are selling out their friends for a few shekels.
Instead of diving into asking for a referral immediately after a sale or using a bribe to get your new client to pony up some names, I suggest that you do something different.
Before you ask for anything from your client, first give something to them of value. That is, tip the scales from balanced to a state of you having delivered more than promised.
There are several ways you can do this. You could over-deliver on your service, give them some extra product or send them a special gift. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you give them more than they expect and make no demands in return.
This process uses the Law Of Reciprocity to create a state in your prospect where they feel a desire to give back to you in order to rebalance the relationship.
The two easiest ways for them to reciprocate your generosity are to give you either a) more of their business or b) referrals. The client will feel great about either choice. They won’t give you crappy referrals because they felt pressure from you asking. Best of all, they won’t feel like they are selling out their friends for a few bucks.
Note two interesting and wonderful things about this process.
First, you feel fantastic because you did something to make your client feel good. Imagine their surprise and delight when they receive the extras you give them.
Second, using this process makes your client feel great about working with you and makes them excited to share their experience with others.
It’s a win-win situation and everyone walks away feeling good about the interaction.
Make a start on it this week by sharing something of value with your customers. With just a small amount of effort on your part, you’ll see the referrals start rolling in.
If you want to get referrals without ever asking for them, even from people you’ve just met, check out this article: