7 steps to unlocking the power of clients to generate referrals – Just Ask!


Asking for Referrals is often a completely underutilized strategy as part of business development for an organization. If the referral strategy is incorporated, it is often done well by only a few individuals but never across the whole business. Managers of teams often do not inspire their teams to ask for referrals or guide them in the process. This is mainly because they themselves do not really ask well for referrals.

Very often the great networks of the top team and the board members are not utilized well for growing the client base for the underlying business, and many excellent opportunities are left are not taken advantage of.

Referrals should be the number one strategy for the business as a whole. As well as being the most inexpensive way to grow your client base, taking the least amount of time, once you have introduced the culture of asking for referrals, all of those that have been asked for referrals recognize that you build your business this way, and you can ask them again. Then all those clients that were onboarded due to being referred can be asked also.

Employing a referral strategy helps an organization become even more client-focused on a micro-level. The better we look after individual clients, the more likely they will be willing to make the effort to introduce a referral.

It is important that everyone in the organization including the CEO to CFO and all board members, top executives, and client-facing people regularly spend a short amount of time identifying 10, easiest, warmest, most rich, opportunities within their networks. 

There are 22 negative mindset reasons as to why people do not ask for referrals. The most obvious are that it feels like an uncomfortable conversation to be having, and it feels too salesy and pushy. None of these mindsets need to hold anyone back from asking for a referral, mostly they are derived from trying to imagine what the client or friend or colleague is thinking if they are asked for a referral. No sooner one realizes that it is a privilege that someone is being given the opportunity of becoming a client of your firm, then many of these fears are allayed.

Everyone is different and it is important for all to find out their own way to ask for referrals, a way  that is natural and confident and is not in any way a salesy ask.  I have developed a 7-step process on how to ask for referrals successfully in a meeting. One of the steps is only asking for one name rather than the normal line used “is there anyone you know?”. Very importantly one of the seven steps, covers how the client or the friend or colleague will actually set up the referral for you in a powerful way.

Employing a successful referral strategy in a meeting helps to focus how individual meetings are choreographed to ensure success, including fitting in asking for a referral. If a business and individuals think laterally there are in fact multiple sources a referral can be asked from. They can come from existing clients, intermediaries, suppliers, internal colleagues and board members, ex work colleagues and family and friends. Each deserve a different approach. For example, the internal colleague still has to be treated like your best client. They need to be able to trust you and believe in your area of the firm can do, for them to introduce their good friend as a client.

The pandemic does not need to act as a way of procrastinating to ask for referrals. The relationships you have can all be asked via video conference also for a referral following the same 7 step process. 

We never need to wait for the perfect moment to ask for a referral. We JUST need to Ask.

If we succeed once in asking for a high-quality referral and are given all the tools possible to achieve this, then this will start to spread through the organization, and through individual people to keep trying to ask in meetings, with a process. Ultimately the DNA of an organization will change, and referrals will become the number one strategy for business development.

Written by Graham Eisner.

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