Client Referrals: Don’t Ask… Don’t Get

Many SMB owners describe client referrals as one of the hardest things they have to do. No matter if they receive client emails thanking them for their service and singing their praises, very few see that feedback as marketing opportunities to ask their clients for referrals.

With November drawing to a close this week, I can’t think of a better time to set up face-to-face meetings with your existing clients to wish them well for the holidays, discuss their plans for the new year, and ask them for a referral.

I am not suggesting in any way that we substitute client referrals with other lead generation tools such as social media, landing pages, online marketing, QR code campaigns, etc., but there is no better lead than a “warm” lead or “endorsed” lead from an existing client.

Although many business owners feel comfortable asking their clients for a testimonial, when it comes to referrals they seem to steer clear.  I’m not sure if it’s that they are shy or just afraid of the client reaction, but referrals are not only a fantastic source for lead generation, they are “free” and therefore should be included in every marketing strategy.

Here are a few tips I’d like to share with you to help you approach your clients and get the business referrals you deserve:

  • Book a face-to-face meeting with your client. People will always be more likely to do something for someone else if the person is standing right in front of them. Although it is acceptable to ask for referrals by email or phone if you’re in a situation where a face-to-face is not possible, you will have greater success when meeting in person.
  • Use the upcoming holidays as an opportunity to set up this face-to-face.
  • Make it a more casual setting – since it is holiday time, a lunch offer would be nice with the idea to thank them for their business and also to connect on plans for the new year.
  • During your holiday lunch or coffee, and after you have discussed their business needs, be as sincere and direct as you can be and say something such as, “I’m really glad that you’re pleased with my work. I’m always looking for referrals and wonder if you know anyone else who might be interested in _______ (what you do).” If they do offer names, take them down and ask the person if they mind if you contact the people directly or if they would prefer to pass your information along to them yourself.
  • Another approach might be to add: “May I leave a few of my business cards with you in case someone comes to mind?” Leaving extra business cards with a person makes it easier for them to pass your name and contact information to someone else.
  • Keep this meeting upbeat and never ask for a referral when presenting your client with their invoice.

It does take some effort and possibly courage to approach your clients for referrals, but the effort promises great rewards.

How have you asked for referrals? Do you have any approaches you would add to this list?

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4 comments

    1. Hi Patrick. Thank you for your feedback and I enjoyed reading your guide too! I really liked the comment about “the act of recommending you isn’t easy” It highlights the feedback we are afraid of and why it’s so hard to ask for a referral. If our clients only knew how much thought and courage goes into our request maybe they would be more willing to help us out.

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