How to gain Sustainable Client Referrals

Author: Stewart Clark / Date: November 30, 2017

Category: Business Performance

There is a gold mine of new opportunity in your existing client base – you simply need to know where to look.

Business is very much about sustainability – the sustainability of new client opportunities/leads along with good sustained profit and cash flow. Drawing these together makes for a very profitable business operation in the short term, and fosters strong enterprise/business value over the longer term.

So, how do you tap into this sustainable flow of new opportunities?

One way, is via referrals from your existing client base. 

Referrals from people who already know and value what you do are literally like gold. They tend to convert quickly, are partly pre-qualified and in some cases – have even received an endorsement for your product or service.

This applies to every business and…. industry type does not matter. You can be referred due to the quality of your product, the delivery of your service or even the speed with which it was provided.  

With a few simple tips, some positioning and a bit of practice – you can draw referral opportunities from your existing clients – but be warned….. it will involve you proactively asking for them. 

So, let’s first consider a couple of points of terminology and then we can get onto a few simple steps to follow to generate new client opportunities.

Terminology – is it a referral that you are seeking or merely just an introduction?

In the vast majority of cases an introduction is all that you actually need, with an introduction far less threatening for anyone to provide. Referrals however, whilst fantastic to receive – tend to be a bit more difficult to draw from your client base. So, if you are concerned about how your clients will respond to you asking for a referral, simply change your language to ask for an introduction.

Asking for an introduction is quite simple when you break it down into a four simple steps;

Timing – consider when is the best time to ask your client for an introduction.

Some business owners will do this early in the sales or service cycle, whilst the vast majority prefer to do it when they have completed the service delivery or product sale. The timing is going to vary from business to business and will really depend on the type of product or service you are offering and when you are actually in direct contact with your client.

For some, it’s all face-to-face at the start but then the actual delivery is completed remotely. If this is you, then you may need to consider seeking an introduction earlier in the sales cycle. For everyone else who has regular face-to-face contact, then it’s far easier to ask for an introduction after you have satisfactorily delivered your product or service.

Positioning – actions to improve the likelihood of receiving an introduction.

Typically there are two sorts of positioning actions which you can consider.

Firstly, discussing the potential of introductions or referrals very early in your client relationship means that the client is already aware that if you deliver a strong service – then its likely that you will look for flow on  introductions. You see this more often in some of the professional service areas where there is going to be quite a body of work completed, with the professional backing themselves to impress with a positive outcome.

The second and more common positioning action is checking that the client is actually happy with the service that you have delivered. If they are, then it’s very easy to segue into seeking an introduction. If they aren’t, then of course you have some “repair” work to do, with the focus on that rather than any referral request in the near term.

The Question – subject to receiving satisfactory feedback about your service, you have the opportunity to  seek an introduction or referral to somebody who your client knows.

There are naturally many ways of doing this and ultimately, it will depend on your preferred delivery style, level of confidence and the level of rapport that you have with them. The higher the confidence or the stronger the rapport, then the more likely you are simply going to directly ask for a referral.

Typically however, business owners are less comfortable with this approach and look for something that is a little bit more natural and conversational to get them to the point of asking for an introduction.

An example of this could be where you explain the type of work you have been doing recently and provide a relevant example which the client will understand. This provides your client with a picture of where you are working and immediately enables them to start visualising who they know who fits that similar picture.

After describing the work you have been doing, you are then able to ask the direct question of “do you know anyone who may need these sorts of services”. Or a more open approach could be; “we are always looking for quality new clients – if you were me, who would you be speaking to? The key behind any line is that it’s comfortable and practised for you. Lines that I use may not be appropriate for you and vice versa

Practice – the best referral lines are those that have been considered and practiced. Give some thought to your business type, your product/service and how you speak. Work out what is going to be the best referral line for you and then practice it so you can deliver it confidently. The more conversational and at ease you are with delivering the line, the more likely you’re going to ask your clients for introductions or referrals.

Seeking referrals can become an incredibly powerful part of your marketing. By becoming practised and proficient at the delivery of the simple introduction or referral question means that you set yourself for long-term sustainable lead generation.

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