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People want to give you referrals - so ask them

One example of how you might ask

Contact ten clients that you know well. Ask them what they particularly like about how you work together. Ask them what they would change to improve your services.

Once you’ve implemented their suggestions you’ll be in a great position to go back to them. People love it when a business takes their advice, and are far more likely to recommend you as a result.

Also when asking for a referral, remember that you are also helping them.  

Your customers like to be thought of as someone 'in the know.'

And when their friend receives great service from you, your customer will feel as though they've done their friend a favour.

Pick your moment, and use a bit of charm...

If you are going to ask an existing customer for a referral, you have to do it with charm. Here’s an example from an IT company director:

“…Sam that’s great to hear. I’m delighted you’re pleased with what we’re doing for you. We really enjoy working with you guys. In fact I wish I had more clients like you. Do you have any friends with computer problems that we ought to be talking to?”

Keep it spontaneous, direct, but low key.

...but try to give them a narrow frame of reference

Has someone ever asked you for a referral?  Did it go something like this: 'Hey John, by chance would you know someone who could benefit from my services?'  John starts to ponder and think about it and eventually says, 'Well, not off the top of my head, but I'll keep thinking about it.' (so don't make them do the work!)

This is how 90% of all referral questions are asked and unfortunately, you might as well not ask the question.

Rarely, if ever will you get a positive response.  Why?  Because you didn't ask the question in the right way. 'know anyone who...' questions are too broad for people to think about.

People need a frame of reference to help them narrow down the playing field of potential referral candidates.

For instance, imagine that you are talking to one of your clients.

You ask her, 'Jo, you're a member of the Shropshire Chamber of Commerce aren't you?'  Jo responds, 'Yes, I am.' You ask, 'Do you go to their meetings on a regular basis?'  'Yes, most of the time.' Jo says.  'Is there anyone there that you think could benefit from my services?  Maybe one or two people you've known in the group for awhile or sit next to regularly?'

Did you see the difference?  You gave Jo a narrow frame of reference from which to think about.  It allowed her to 'see' the potential referrals in her mind. 

This may be limiting the number of potential people that your associates might know, but it is far more effective than opening up the ocean of people that Jo may know, but can't remember. 

Your request will also stay in Jo's mind long after you've asked it because she visualized your services with much greater intensity.

Also think how you should be blending your referral strategy into your networking strategy.

Also how your website should be supporting your referral plan.