You can spend hours Googling the best tips, tricks and best practices on how to ask clients for referrals, but one thing is missing from all those articles: the actual words that are supposed to come out of your mouth.
Where is a referral script!?
We’ve all been in that situation, whether professional or personal, where we spend hours researching how to do something, but when it comes to go-time, we just can’t find the right words to say. Or, we never really knew what to say in the first place.
That’s especially true for asking clients for referrals. Many of us are shy or feel too pushy when we essentially have to ask current clients to find us new business. That’s totally normal, but it doesn’t help with finding the right words to actually make the ask.
First, let’s address a few considerations about asking for customer referrals without looking like a fool:
- Be Direct
If you are asking for a referral, you most likely have an established relationship with the client. This relational equity can withstand a direct referral request. There is no need to be coy.
- Focus on your “Best, Best” Clients
If you want to grow your business through referrals, you are essentially given the ability to choose your own clients. Doesn’t it make sense to pick more of the best? Who do you most like working with? Who are your happy clients? Do you want more clients like them? Express this in your ask.
- Provide Value
More than just completing the original project on time or under budget, provide value specific to the referral request. In the past, I’ve left genuine reviews on LinkedIn profiles or Yelp pages just prior to asking a client for referrals. This helps you both grow and deepens the relationship.
- Recognize and thank your referral sources
If one of your existing clients refers someone in their network, be sure to thank them! Acknowledge the connection (even if it doesn’t work out). Building a healthy referral network stems from recognition and appreciation.
- Make the referral request personal
This is one of the things I call “Unscalable” – don’t try to automate the process or remove the human touch. Asking for referrals isn’t something that should be done on autopilot (although you can incorporate it into your client management process). It should be human-to-human.
- Remain Top of Mind
If your mind has ever gone blank when asked if you could refer a ___________, you understand the importance of remaining top of mind (a.k.a. TOMA = Top of Mind Awareness). This is done by providing value consistently over time. If you have a blog, share quality content. If you have a newsletter, deliver a message your audience can benefit from. If you host an event, create memorable moments that cement your brand name into the minds of your ideal audience. Delivering value, consistently over time is an impenetrable moat around your brand. Competitors cannot compete and clients cannot resist.
Now that we’ve covered how to ask for referrals without looking silly, let’s talk about what to say. These scripts are designed to be a template for you. Use them, adapt them, and modify them. Find out what works best for you and your referral partners.
So, here are three scripts you can use to ask your clients for referrals:
Script 1: Asking for Referrals from Current Clients
When to do it: Once you’ve had several positive business interactions with your client and your client is happy with the work you’ve done. Here’s what to say:
You: “I have a favor to ask you, but only if you’re comfortable with it.”
Client: “Sure, what is it?”
You: “You are so great to work with, and I would love to find more clients like you. Do you know any other people in marketing at small tech startups that need help with SEO?” (Make the ask very specific here: what kind of client are you looking for?)
Client: “Yes, I do. I can think of a couple of people off the top of my head.”
You: “That’s great. Would you feel comfortable introducing me to them? I would really appreciate a quick email intro, I even have an intro email template written if that makes it easier for you.” (We covered this in another blog post: Do the work for your client so he is more likely to follow through).
Client: “Sure, I’d be happy to do that.”
You: “Thank you so much. I really appreciate it! I also have a referral program – if one of your referrals becomes a client, I offer 10% off my services for the next month.” (If you have a referral incentive, make sure to mention it!)
One of my readers pointed out that “No one – I repeat NO ONE – can think of a friend to refer off the top of their head.” Fair enough. That opens the door to another way to use this script to ask for a referral.
You: “Have you had similar conversations about [your service] with coworkers/neighbors/friends/church members? Did they feel the same frustrations that you and I have discussed?”
This prompting leads your client to think back on the last time they had a conversation about this problem. Likely, they will remember who they were talking to about it.
Script 2: Asking a Referred Client for Introductions
When to do it: One of my clients, John, has successfully referred you to Bob. Bob is now a new client of yours and you want to know if Bob can introduce you to his network. Here’s what to say:
You: “I’ve really enjoyed working with you thus far, and I’m happy that John introduced us! If it weren’t for him, I would’ve never met you. So, I wanted to ask if you knew anyone else that is looking for SEO help and if you would feel comfortable introducing them to me?”
Script 3: Laying the Groundwork for Future Referrals
When to do it: You’ve asked a client for a referral, but they can’t think of anyone to introduce you to. However, you want them to think of you the next time they meet someone who could be a good fit for your agency. Here’s what to say:
You: “I was wondering if you would feel comfortable introducing me to anyone you know who is looking for SEO help?”
Client: “Hmmm, I don’t know anyone right now who needs SEO help.”
You: “That’s ok! But, if you do meet someone in the future, would you please keep me in mind? I’d love to work with more clients like you, and I find that people hang around in similar groups. I’d appreciate anyone you could introduce me to!”
Client: “Sure, I can do that.”
You: “Great, thank you. Give me a call or send me an email if you meet anyone who would be a good fit!”
Practice Makes Perfect
Now that you have these scripts, practice saying these words to yourself in the mirror. Really. As cheesy as it feels, you want to come across as prepared and confident when you ask your clients for referrals. And now that you know what to say, it’s all about the delivery.
How to Overcome Asking for Referrals Without Being Pushy
As I mentioned before, successfully asking for a referral includes being direct. For some, this may sound pushy or appear desperate. There is much latitude for you to adapt your referral request script to fit your personality and the voice of your brand. That said, don’t dilute it to the point of being confusing to those you are requesting the referral from. They need to know what you want.
Some tips to overcome the pushy feeling or appearing desperate:
Reach out to the right people
As we know, each client relationship is different. If you don’t feel that asking a client for a referral would go over well, skip them. Or – better yet – add them to a list to follow up with. Perhaps they need some of that value-add that I mentioned above. Not everyone is a good fit. That said, I’ve had organizational clients with whom I really connected with certain people (not always the President, decision-maker, or boss). I’ve reached out directly to those I had the connection with. They are often a great source for referrals, as they are just as connected within the industry and also identify with similar personalities or qualities.
Make Sure the Ask Feels Natural
If the referral scripts above don’t sound like you: change them. Take the bones of what I’ve shared and use language you’re comfortable with. A referral request must sound authentic, it must sound like you. Additionally, ask in a manner that makes sense. If you primarily communicate with your client via text, ask them for a referral via text. If your primary communication platform is email or social media, use that. If you are on the phone with your clients all day, use the phone. The point is to make it your own.
Ask When They’re Happiest
Smart businesses spot the opportunities when their clients are happiest. Think of the tempting treats near the checkout register or how your favorite iPhone app asks you for a 5-Star review right after you’ve completed a fun task. These moments are designed to capture your attention when you are most happy. Apply the same principle to your referral asks.
Asking for referrals is one of the most effective ways to grow your business. It’s about establishing a relationship in which you make your client feel confident in your abilities and trustworthy as an advisor. Now that you have a client referral script, take action!
Cheers to many happy customers!