How to Ask Your Clients for Referrals

How would you like to get more referrals from your clients?

There’s a successful technique I use that can get you referrals from clients, and do so without damaging the relationship with your client, which is very important.

Imagine this scenario … A prospect calls inquiring into your copywriting services and he tells you that you were recommended by your client Bob Smith.

The prospect goes on to say, “We need a website written. Can you help us out?” Now, what are the chances of turning that inquiry into a brand-new client for your business?

Well, I can tell you right now, the chances are nearly 100%.

They presumably know and trust Bob Smith. So because he recommended you, they are confident you can help them.

They are already preconditioned to want to hire you because you were recommended. That’s the power of a referral.

And the very best referrals you can get are referrals from your current, happy clients. Those referrals are usually the highest quality referrals, and those are usually very easy to convert into a new client.

So how do you get more referrals from clients?

Two Ways to Get Referrals

You can just let it happen naturally. If you do good work for your clients, and you provide excellent client service, then occasionally one of your clients is going to recommend you to someone. And you’ll get a new client that way.

You may not ask for a referral, but some referrals will come your way organically.

A second way to get referrals from clients is to make it happen by actively asking clients to recommend you. If you do that, you could probably, at the very least, double the number of referrals you get from clients.

Which Clients Should You Ask for Referrals From?

This technique works best for those clients that you have a good relationship with. The kind of relationship that has gone beyond the formal client-vendor relationship.

Say you’ve done one project with a client, and the whole transaction has been very formal. You communicated by email a bit, and you sent your copy. They’re happy but that’s as far as the relationship has gone so far.

That’s probably not a great client to approach and ask for a recommendation or a referral. That relationship is still kind of formal and they don’t really know you yet.

Instead, this referral technique works best for those clients you have a friendly professional relationship with. You know when you give them a call, they’re happy to talk to you.

And obviously, this technique works best for those clients that are very happy with your work. They like what you do, and they like the copy you write. They come back to you again and again. Those are prime candidates for clients that could potentially refer you.

Asking a client for referrals is a little bit tricky, because you don’t want to put them on the spot or to feel pressured or uncomfortable. You want to make it easy for them to say no.

You don’t want to make this seem like a high-pressure sales call. You don’t want to sound desperate or hungry for work.

Of course, you might be hungry for work. Every once in a while it happens to even the most successful writers. But you don’t want to position yourself that way.

You want to position yourself as the busy copywriting expert who is in-demand, and I’ll explain how to do that in just a moment.

So let me break down the technique that has worked for me, and it works well for other copywriters I’ve taught this to …

Now, this differs a lot from some of the “advice” you read on the internet on this topic. I’ve done lots of Google searches on asking clients for referrals, and some of the advice I found looks good on paper, but doesn’t work well in the real world.

For example, here’s one I thought was funny. This guy recommended sending your client an email asking for a referral. In that email, you include a blank numbered list where the client is supposed to fill in three names they can recommend.

I’ve never heard of anybody doing that. If I received an email like that, with a numbered list that I’m supposed to fill in, I’d probably roll my eyes, and I think most people would react the same way.

So here’s a real world technique that works …

A Four-Step Process for Asking for Referrals

It all comes down to how you position yourself and the words you use.

#1. Set the Stage

By setting the stage, what I mean is that you want to tell the client you’re asking them for a favor. You want to get your client in that mindset. You don’t have to be coy about it.

Let’s say your client’s name is Bob. Here are a couple of ways you can do that.

- Bob, I wonder if you can help me out with something?

- Bob I wonder if you could do me a big favor?

- I have a favor to ask Bob, do you have a couple of minutes?

#2. Position Yourself as a Busy Expert

You’ll say something like this, “I’ve been pretty busy over the past few months, but as I’m scheduling my work for the next quarter, I’m realizing I have room for a new client.”

#3. Ask for a Referral

You simply ask for the referral. You don’t have to be fancy about it. You don’t have to do a little dance or anything like that.

You simply ask directly by saying, “Do you know anyone who would benefit from my services?” Simple as that.

#4. Describe Your Ideal Client

You want to give the client a clear picture of your ideal client. If you don’t do this, they may refer someone who’s not a good fit for you and that puts you in an awkward position with the client.

You say something like this, “By the way, I work best with clients like you, Bob — owners of growing seven-figure companies, that sell a B2B product or service of some kind.”

Okay, so let me give you a complete example script:

“Bob, I wonder if you could do me a big favor? I’ve been pretty busy over the last few months, but as I’m scheduling my work for the next quarter, I’m realizing I may have room for a new client. Do you know anyone who would benefit from my work? By the way, I work best with clients like you. Owners of growing seven-figure companies that sell a B2B product or service of some kind.”

If you follow these steps and use a script similar to that, most of the clients you deal with will react positively. They won’t feel pressured at all. They certainly won’t think that you’re begging for work or desperate for work.

This is a very typical business conversation. They’ll respect you for asking. Now, they’re going to do one of three things when you say this.

They’re going to know someone right away. They’ll say, “Well, yes, Steve. I do know someone who may be looking for someone who offers your services. I’ll send them an email right now.”

That will only happen about 15% of the time, but it does happen, which is good.

Sometimes the client will be polite but ultimately do nothing. They’ll say something like, “Okay Steve, if I hear of somebody, I’ll definitely send them your way,” and then you never get a referral from that client. At least you planted the seed. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Then the third thing that can happen is your client actually does go on the lookout for the opportunity to recommend you. Over the next month or two months or even six months, they send one or two or three people your way. It’s happened to me several times.

About 30%-40% of the time, that’s what is going to happen. The client won’t know someone right away, but you’ve planted the seed. And they want to help you — they like your work and when they get an opportunity to recommend you to someone, they do. And you do get those calls, you do get that scenario such as I mentioned at the start of this article.

This is a very simple but excellent approach to asking for a referral.

But make sure you don’t do this by hiding behind an email.

This is the kind of conversation you want to have with a client in-person or on the phone. It may make you feel a little uncomfortable to have this conversation in person, but that’s how you get results.

If you follow this technique, you’re going to get more clients recommending you to more people. And those referrals, like I said, are the very best kind of referrals you can get.

This article, How to Ask Your Clients for Referrals, was originally published by B2B Writing Success.

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Published: September 27, 2018

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