Think about why you would give a referral to someone. Let’s face it. Giving a referral to a product or service provider puts your reputation on the line. So, unless you have had a great experience with the product, the service or the provider, you’re not likely to give a referral.
But giving quality referrals increases your value in the eyes of your prospective clients and network. Giving quality referrals can benefit you because it benefits the people you know.
Almost everyone enjoys helping others. Finding a great product or service and telling everyone about it feels great! People who had a great experience with you might refer you to others. People who had an OK experience with you might refer you to others. It’s not likely that anyone else will. Let’s assume that you know how to provide a good to great experience for your clients.
Here are 8 practices that will increase your odds of getting a referral from your past and present clients.
1. Be a Trusted Guide
At the beginning of a new business relationship, set realistic expectations. Fear of losing the business may tempt you to only tell the prospect what they want to hear. If you are afraid that your prospect will go somewhere else for their business, you may not want them to know all that they can expect to happen when going through the process of doing business with you. I recommend giving your clients a timeline of expected events that will mark the progress of the process from start to finish. And if you can expect there to be challenges along the way, be sure to tell them up front. Let them know that they can rely on you to know what’s going on and to guide them through any challenging circumstances. Then step up and keep that promise. If and when things start going south, find a solution, tell them the truth and be their trusted guide.
2. Say Please
Tell them that you want them to refer you to people they know and tell them often. There are high points and low points in every transaction. Watch for the high points. Identify several “good news” opportunities to ask for a referral. For example, in mortgage lending those opportunities show up when…
- the loan is approved,
- they find the house and make an offer,
- you lock in a great rate,
- you save them some money on their fees,
- the offer is accepted,
- home inspection requests are successfully negotiated
- the appraisal comes in at or above value,
- there is a problem and you are working with the whole team to solve it,
- the underwriter approves the loan,
- loan documents are sent to the closer,
- the loan funds,
- they get their keys.
Our clients LOVE to hear good news and that is the time to ask for referrals. When they feel good about how things are going, ask them who else they know who could use your help.
3. Tell the Truth
When things aren’t going so well, tell the truth and use the challenging times to offer reassurance, demonstrating your professionalism and expertise. Don’t let your fear talk you into spinning your story to make them feel better. If they don’t trust you they won’t refer you to others. By demonstrating that you will tell them the truth even if it’s bad news, you build trust. And you earn credibility by then working hard to solve the problem.
The hardest time to tell the truth is when you make a mistake. You are human. It’s going to happen. But mistakes and failures are events, they are not who you are. Take responsibility when you make a mistake by admitting it, repairing any damage you have done and giving your client a chance to express any emotions they may have about it. By allowing everyone to fully express their reactions to what has happened, you keep the communication lines open so that everyone knows that it is safe to say all there is to say. It clears the air and sets everyone up for a successful experience.
Hiding a mistake or fabricating a story to shift responsibility will almost always come back to bite you. At the very least, this will increase your levels of stress and anxiety (which is the opposite of what you wanted to do when you hid the mistake or made up a story to shift responsibility). Otherwise, the customer and other team members will sense your stress and anxiety and make up their own stories to explain your energy shift. This destroys trust and confidence.
4. Brag Humbly
Turn problems into referral opportunities. Be sure they know what a great job you are doing for them. They may have no idea how hard it is to deliver your product or service as promised. Momma said you should never brag. I don’t want to argue with momma (because momma also said you should never argue with her). But momma probably wasn’t trying to get referrals.
If clients and referral sources don’t know what you did for them, they can’t appreciate you. To humbly brag, when problems and challenges arise, tell them what happened, why it was a problem, and what you are doing or what you did to solve the problem. This is not the time to blame others. Be matter of fact and professional as you reassure them that you are doing what can be done and working to resolve each challenge as it comes up. When the problem is solved, when you have found an innovative, creative or persistent approach that solves the problem, tell them how you did it and celebrate with them. This would be a good time to ask for a referral.
Communicate, communicate. And communicate some more. If the process takes a while to complete, call your client at least once a week with updates on progress (even if there is no progress) and what to expect next based on real and factual information. This reduces stress for everyone and removes opportunities for assumptions and mistakes. Call and update everyone involved any time something significant happens in the process.
6. Own and Manage Your Stuff
Manage your emotions responsibly. This means taking responsibility for how you feel. It means authentically being who your clients, team members and referral sources need you to be. Get some coaching to manage your “being”. Find a process that works for you to reduce your own stress. Take good care of yourself so that you can take good care of your clients and referral sources.
7. Be Grateful
During the transaction and after, show your gratitude. Show the referring party, the client, team members and all others who helped to complete the transaction how much you appreciate them with a handwritten thank you card or a telephone call. When you recognize that your client or a team member has stepped up and helped you, acknowledge and thank them.
Okay. You’re probably not going to be their best friend. But you might be. No matter how great you were for your clients, they will forget about you if you don’t stay in front of them. Block time on your calendar to stay in touch with your previous clients, your referral partners and your top prospects. Don’t let anyone forget that you did a great job for them and want to help others. Use a good CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) to help remember to connect on a regular basis. Consider sending out a monthly newsletter, birthday cards, and anniversary of sale or purchase cards.
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