The WRONG Time to Ask for Referrals

I work with so many companies that WANT to have a great referral program (who doesn’t right?) – but spend very little time strategizing on how to create one.  When I ask them about their referral program, almost all business leaders will say “yes, we do get some referrals.” – and I always ask them the same question; “ok great, now what IS the strategy, how do you train it, and how do you manage it?” – of which, every time, I get a blank stare.  So, immediately, the business leaders declares “from now on, its MANDATORY that ALL salespeople ask for referrals on every sale!” .. basically demanding that the process occurs.

Here’s what I say:  “Hold up, why don’t you step back, and really think through your referral strategy.  Its not just asking for referrals that will increase them, its STRATEGICALLY asking for referrals, at the right time”

Again, blank stares.

I will tell you the same thing I tell them: They key to a great referral program is to understand the right time and the right way to ask for referrals.

Stay with me. Lets first talk about the right time to ask for referrals. HINT: its NOT when you make the sale! – the RIGHT time to ask for referrals is when your client actually starts to experience the BENEFIT of what your product or service does for them. You see, in most cases, when we buy something, we really don’t experience the benefit of it, until we start to use it. Once we start to use it, then we become (in most cases) even more enamored at the benefits of our purchase. THAT is when your CLIENT is experiencing what I call the peak referral status. When they FEEL great about using your product or service.

So, here’s the key:  Study how your clients first use your product or service, and understand when they should be experiencing the major benefits of what your product and services are. Then, THAT’s the time to place a phone call. Typically this phone call is NOT just about getting a referral. I like to call them “professional courtesy calls”.. ideally, this should come from the salesperson, but in reality (as I’ve done with many companies) you can have someone from the administrative staff make these calls.  Its really easy, if you lay the scripts out for them.

And it goes something like this “Hi (name) this is (your name) calling from (your company).  I see there that you purchased our (product/service) on (date), and I am simply calling as a professional courtesy to make sure that everything is perfect. Would you mind if I ask you 3 quick and easy questions?”

That’s the start of the conversation, and let me tell you, that almost NOBODY says no to this.

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