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How to Ask Your Clients for Referrals, With Class

Word of mouth is gold when it comes to marketing. Neilsen’s Trust in Advertising report from 2015 indicates that 83% of respondents completely or somewhat trust referrals from people they know, which outstrips any other form of advertising. What does this mean for business? Client referrals can easily be your highest converting lead source and income generation stream - if you manage the process right.

Go too hard on a customer trying to elicit referrals and you’ll come off as tacky. Have rewards in place that you’d find in a school raffle and you minimise a client’s worth to your business. It’s a delicate balance.

Stay classy when asking for referrals by following our tips.


Have a clear referral partner program in place

One mistake businesses make is not having a clear referral program in place that’s communicated online. Simply tacking on “If you have any other people that you think would be interested in our product/service please let me know” to the end of your phone call isn’t likely to see many returns.

Some of the biggest businesses in the world use referral partner programs to drive more. Trend Micro offer a flat 10% commission on the first 12 months of any referred customer. Rackspace have a tiered system that can earn partners as much as 25% of a new client’s revenue. Take a good look at these pages for referral partner programs that stay classy and clearly outline the benefits to your customers.

To drive traffic to your referral partner program, you can mention it in conversation, put it in your email signature, do a write up in the company newsletter, add a Referral Program sitelink when creating your Google Ads, and more.

Look for natural openings

If you are doing amazing work with a client, they’re sure to let you know. The next time that Phil from CompanyX tells you how much time you’ve saved him, you could say something like, “That’s great news – that’s what we are here for! Hey, we’re doing a bit of a drive at the moment, too, hoping to get others on board in a similar situation to yourself. Do you happen to know anyone that would get a boost from our business?” You can also mention your referrals program if it seems right, here.

Obviously, these sort of conversations only work well if you have developed a trusted working relationship with your client. If they’re the type that sends short emails without too much interaction, who simply enjoy your product/service in the most hands off way possible, then this type of comment could be irritating. It’s generally best to leave these sort of clients to their own devices!

What’s more: knowing their challenges and paying close attention to what’s going on in their industry can be a great icebreaker. It can turn a seller-to-buyer call into a colleague-to-colleague conversation, delight the client and increase your retention figures at the same time. And why not continue that over lunch or a cuppa?


Give a little to get a little

Do you know of people in your own networks who could benefit from your client’s business? Referring on business to your clients can make them more willing to refer on business to you too. These sort of reciprocal relationships are what Wall Street was founded on.

Refer someone else to your client and then give them a phone call to say, “I hope you don’t mind but I’ve passed along your details to Jen over at CompanyY. It sounds like she could be in the market for a solution like yours.”

This helpfulness will be much appreciated and can spark a reciprocal referral system if you have a good enough working relationship and make enough effort to bring valuable customers to their business. People like to help others out in general, especially if it doesn’t take much effort on their behalf!

The most important part of securing your customers’ referrals is making sure that you are giving them an excellent service. When people are really happy with what you’re providing, they’re also happy to tell others – as witnessed by the growth of opt-in review sites like Trip Advisor and Amazon. Lead with excellent service, building strong relationships (along with a solid product offering) as your most effective way to get customer referrals.

There are other ways you can find new business with your existing clients, but expanding your reach within their networks can be a great way to uncover new business. With a clear referrals strategy in place you’ll be able to grow your client base, and close & convert sales more organically and effectively.