Sunday, May 4, 2008

Why Is It So Hard to Ask for a Referral?

My Take on the why something so easy and effective gets overlooked...

You've had lots of customers. Hundreds - even thousands of them, right? Whether you're a professional, a contractor or merchant, each of your clients is sharing their experience with their network of friends, neighbors and co-workers. Right now.

The "How To" books all say it. The sales experts in their seminars have told you over and over - "personal referrals are worth their weigh in gold". They also tell you the best time to get referrals is the moment you gain a new, satisfied customer.

Each new client is an opportunity to grow your business the smart way - by inserting yourself into their conversations with their permission.

So why's it so hard? Two reasons.

First reason - fear. The fear of losing a prospect is balanced with your knowledge that sales is a numbers game. "There will be lots more prospects. Besides, if they really knew me they'd have selected me." It would seem like landing a new account is a lot scarier than asking an existing customer for a referral.

The fear of rejection doesn't go away after you get the order. It deepens. So many business owners who congratulate themselves for their sales abilities are actually afraid to lay it on the line when it counts most.

Why is this so? Because once you've won their account you begin getting to know your client personally and vice versa. Their opinion of you is now formed from first hand experience.

So if your customer won't give you a referral the rejection is personal.

Second reason - pride. Some of us like giving the impression that we're all that. As a local business owner we enjoy an image of success. Sure - we advertise. And sure we accept referrals. But "asking" for referrals would make it look like we need more business.

Huh? Isn't that ludicrous?

Yep - it is as silly as it is widespread. In fact you probably know some second-generation businesses that fall into this category. Junior has done pretty well managing the good will and clientele carved out by his or her entrepreneurial forebear. But they are missing out on the personal touch and are not connecting with their customers like the ol' man did. They never had to ask, so they don't.

Whether due to fear of rejection or protecting your "image", I'll bet you a buck you aren't following a plan to:

  1. Tell them they're valuable to your business

  2. Let them know you'd like them to recommend you

  3. Give them a way to do this

  4. Follow an ongoing customer communications program

Each customer has been gained with much effort - and even more sweat has gone into making them happy with your services. They expect you to ask them to refer friends to you - and they even want to do this if you've provided good service.

Plus as each month passes, more and more of your customers are affiliating with their trusted businesses through customer loyalty programs, Web based services and friends who have home based businesses. So the longer you wait to start a loyalty program the farther behind you are slipping.

The good news is such a program is both easy and free to start. was built to fill this need and allow you to connect with the clients and neighbors who refer business to you. Plus you can benefit the charitable organizations that your customers and friends support so everybody can benefit.

What's more, you can get started inviting your network in a matter of minutes.

Oh - if I owe you a buck, just let me know - and share your referral system techniques with your neighbors in the next issue of the YouGottaCall "Connect-gineTM" newsletter.