If you really want to build your sales, you need to follow these tips on 9 ways to boost your referrals.
Quick – think of the Apple brand. Who first introduced you to it? If you love Macs, who was it that first convinced you to try one? I bet it wasn’t a television ad.
If you dislike Macs, who do you wish would stop trying to ‘sell’ you on them? It’s not the ads driving you crazy or even their marketing or social media. It’s other Apple users!
Rockstar fans who love that Apple logo — they are fanatics about it. They are a crazy-strong network of rabid customers who don’t just love Macs, but they talk up the product to anyone who will listen about it –and even some who don’t want to.
Steve Jobs was the ultimate at creating an awesome referral network. How did he do it, and more importantly, how can you create the same for your own business? Even if you can’t create an international string of people who will sing your praises constantly, you can still do a lot to boost the number of referrals your current customers give you.
How to Boost Your Referrals and Create an Amazing Team of Rockstar Fans
1. Customers Want to Refer You
You first have to understand something, and really let it sink in. By asking for referrals, you’re asking them to do something they already want to do. It’s not a favor they’re granting you, it’s an inborn impulse. There’s a reason the term “Know It All” exists.
People love to look smart in front of other people, especially their friends and family. So give them a chance to share something that will make them look good, and look smart to other people. Make it easy to share you.
2. Stop Crossing Your Fingers
Waiting and hoping for referrals is not going to do you any good. You have to ask. You have to create a system to do more than just wait until it randomly springs into your customer’s head to mention how great your business is. You have to set it up so that in (almost) every contact you have with your customers includes a request for referral, either overtly or subtly. Create a system.
3. The Referral Starts Early
The best way to get a referral is to deserve one in the first place. The minute you ‘land’ that customer, purposely begin to think of them as referrers now. You have already sold them, now your next job is to make it easy and desirable for them to refer you. (Your work is never done, is it? Welcome to the world of entrepreneurship!)
Do more than meet your current customer’s expectations– exceed them, wildly. If you sell them a physical product, throw another one in the box for free, just to thank them for ordering from you. If you offer a service or membership, tack on extra weeks or randomly surprise them with an email that “unlocks” other services you offer. More often than not, it will cost you little to nothing to do this for them, and you could gain an EFL. (Evangelist For Life)
4. Pick Your Moments
There are two ideal times to ask for a referral: Always and Thank You Time. This means that, like I said before, you should always be asking your current customers to refer people to you. This could be as simple as making sure you have a “Forward to a Friend” button or automated link on every web page and email.
It could be as involved as training all your staff just the right amount of times to ask if a happy customer knows of anyone else you could help. (Hint: the number of times is just this side of obnoxious — a lot, but not too much.)
The other time is at the Thank You. This is less obvious than it sounds. Often, when a customer is thanking us for helping them or for offering our wonderful product to them, it may feel so good you counter with a simple “You’re welcome!” Heck, it might feel opportunistic to say any more. But it’s not! There’s a way to bake a referral request right into that gracious “You’re Welcome.”
5. The Script
You likely have your sales pitch down pat. You know how to describe what your company can do for a prospect, probably in 3 minutes or less. But do you – and does your staff – have a similar patter memorized on how to get a referral? You’re going to have to write this yourself so that it sounds natural to the tone of your company, but you can ‘break the ice’ with a few phrases like:
“We rely on happy customer referrals to help build our business. Do you happen to know anyone else who could use our help?”
(After they profusely thank you for something) “You’re so welcome. That makes me happy to hear it and I can’t wait to tell the owner. Hey, while we’re talking, is there anyone else you know who we could help in the same way? The most valuable Thank You in the world to us is a referral!”
“Next time you are talking about your business with your network or friends, we’d be honored if you’d mention the ways in which we were able to help you. We’re a small business like you and every bit of referral helps us so much.”
6. Ask Don’t Tell
While you’re busy engaging with and talking to your customers, keep your ears open. You might be surprised at how they characterize your business, especially what makes your business extra special. For instance, you may think the fact that you have the lowest prices in the marketplace is what is making folks rave about you to their friends. But you ask happy customers straight out: what is it about us you appreciate?
You might be surprised to hear that it’s that one customer service rep who has the fabulous memory and excellent sense of humor. Or the way your website is easier to navigate than any of your competitors. Once you know what it is that makes you different, you can tweak and refine and perfect your referral process.
7. Incentivize, Acknowledge, Repeat!
It’s Referral 101 to incentivize happy customers to refer-a-friend. You do this by offering a discount on future purchases, or free products, or even offering them a cash-back commission on every successful referral.
But don’t forget the other end of that spectrum. Once you have received a referral, acknowledge them! In public, ideally. By giving a shout out to Customer X for referring Customer Y to ‘your community’ – you give other customers the idea to refer you to their friends.
Who doesn’t love a public shout out? Go one step further and surprise them with material gifts like flowers, or gift cards or even just a hand written heartfelt note of thanks. Bringing it to the physical plain fosters more good will than digital communication.
8. A Referral In Hand
Let’s say you did it. You have that referred person on the phone saying “Hi, So and so told me to call you because she loves your product. Here’s my credit card information, I’m ready to buy.” The urge is to get that number super quickly, before they change their mind.
But think it over. Remember this person is a sale, yes, but it’s also a future referrer themselves. If you qualify them first, and ask them a few questions to make sure your product or service is right for their needs, they are going to appreciate you taking the time to understand them all that much more.
If you sell them something they do not end up needing, just to close the deal, you risk them asking for a refund and complaining about you later. So take your time and qualify your referrals before you sell them.
9. DJ 180
And finally, I’m going to close with the most interesting kind of client referrer. I’ll call this one “The 180”. This seems counter intuitive at first, but if you think about it, it makes the most sense.
Vocal people are vocal people. When a customer calls you full of complete, bone-shaking outrage over something they claim you have done to them, this pre-qualifies them as someone who is not “afraid to speak up.” In the world of client referrals, that’s a valuable person — no matter how irritated they are with you at that very moment.
I have a friend who ran a wedding business consulting company. One client of hers, I’ll call him DJ Fred, reamed her out on Facebook once over a delayed delivery. Did she get defensive or post a comment replying to him, explaining what happened?
No, she called him personally and offered to not only refund him the cost of the late package but refund the cost of the entire annual membership fee — and she let DJ Fred keep everything she’d ever sent him.
Not only did he later post a “Wow, talk about excellent customer service!” Facebook post about her, but he renewed his membership six months later. He said he didn’t want to lose out on her valuable information. He even offered to do a video testimonial on her website for her!
This, my friends, is a classic “180.” With a bombardment of good will and little karma, you can turn your customer’s very public frown upside down and then some.
What about you? What have been some of your more heartwarming customer referral stories? How do you incentivize your customers to evangelize on your behalf?
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