A Tip Guaranteed to Get More Referrals from Everyone You Ask

Today, I'm going to talk about a simple yet ingenious method to increase your chances of getting referrals from everyone you ask.

But first, I want to tell you about an unusual "talent" I have (that I rarely get to use).

If you name any popular song from the last 50 years or so, there's a good chance I'll be able to tell you who wrote it (or at least one of the writers if there is more than one songwriter). I can usually come up with the songwriter for older songs, but my success ratio isn't as high.

I acquired this totally useless skill by always paying attention to the songwriting credits on records, CDs, movie credits, and so on.

I challenged a co-worker to stump me at a party once. He fired three songs at me, which I answered correctly.

I asked him for a fourth song, and after thinking about it for a minute or so, he said he couldn't think of another one. Now, I don't know whether it was because he was tired of playing, but I found it to be incredible that over the past 50+ years, he couldn't come up with the name of another song.

I tell you this story because it reminds me of something I read recently in Bob Burg's book Endless Referrals.

Years ago, Burg joined a company as part of their local sales force. The sales manager asked the question:

"How do you get referrals?"

A young sales rep shot his hand up and said, "You ask for them." The manager immediately agreed.

Burg initially thought to himself, "How naive." But he conceded that they were at least half right.

You do have to ask for referrals. But here's the kicker …

Burg says you have to "ask in a way that elicits that person to be able to come up with quality names."

He says it's not enough to ask the question, "Do you know anybody else who could benefit from my products and services?" Because chances are they will stare off into space for a few moments and say something along the lines of …

"I can't think of anybody at the moment, but when I do, I'll definitely let you know."

The key is to provide the person with a frame of reference, says Burg.

He gives an example of what he means. The following is a conversation with a person called Joe, who is very influential in your community. You actually know Joe pretty well and have previously sent some business his way:

You: Joe, you were telling me you're an avid golfer.

Joe: Yes, I am. Been playing for over 20 years. If I ever get to retire, I'll probably play every day. Right now, though, it's only on weekends. I mean, every weekend.

You: Hmm. Is there a specific foursome you play with most of the time?

Joe: Well, yeah, there's Joe Martin, Harry Browne, and Nancy Goldblatt.

You: Joe, as far as you know, would any of them need … ?

And then Burg says you get into the benefits of what you do.

Get the idea?

Instead of asking a question that targets people in general, you ask a question that targets a specific, limited number of people.

Here's another example Burg cites:

You: How long have you been involved in the Rotary Club?

Joe: About six years now. Great bunch of people.

You: Joe, are there one or two people in your club that you tend to sit next to every night? [Notice you didn't ask, "Does anyone in your club need … ?" It might be a large club, thus you would be right back with same problem of too many people for him to be able to isolate anyone.]

Joe: Really just one person: Mike O'Brien. Been friends with him and his family for years.

You: Has Mike ever mentioned possibly being in the market for a … ?

Burg says that once you get the first couple of names, you start to expand your list to include as many people as possible. He says the first name is the most difficult. The others tend to fall into place easily.

An Amazon.com reviewer for Burg’s book posted that he had received 23 referrals within a week of adopting this strategy.

The mistake I made when asking my friend for another song was similar to the mistake many people make when asking for referrals. I should have narrowed it down for him, asking him to name his favorite Motown song or his favorite Celine Dion song (if he has one) or Three Dog Night tune.

Have you had any luck asking for referrals this way? Do you have any additional tips to offer? If so, please post your comments here.

Of course, in order to be in a position to receive a lot of referrals, it helps to have a solid core of steady customers. For help targeting the businesses that can best help you meet all your financial goals for your writing business, check out my recent article on the subject by clicking here.

I hope you've enjoyed this week as much as I have writing it.

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The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: May 25, 2012

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