How can I get my clients to refer when they are too selfish to share? —Anonymous
This was a question someone asked me on my Facebook page. They didn’t give me any more details than this and I never did hear back from them. However, I thought it was an interesting topic for discussion and wanted to share my thoughts with you here.
At first blush, it sounds like a very one-sided relationship if you have clients who don’t refer you.
But it’s a little too glib to chalk it all up to that.
There’s usually more to things than that and you could be losing out on an opportunity to improve your business by not examining the issue further.
I wanted to find out more so my first question was, “What is it that tells you this is, in fact, what is happening?”
I also asked, “Have you considered having a conversation with this/these client(s)?”
Unless you’ve actually spoken with a client, you can’t presume to know their true feelings, intentions or what’s really going on (if anything). Having a heart-to-heart can clear the air to move forward in a more positive, mutually beneficial direction.
It could be that they just didn’t think about it and it wasn’t anything negative about you (or them) at all.
(Remember, we have to ASK for what we want. We can’t expect people to be mindreaders.)
Now, personally, I don’t like to hound clients for referrals. I prefer they give those of their own accord.
And in a healthy, two-way relationship, they will.
That said, a lot of the referrals I’ve gotten over the years just weren’t who I was looking for anyway so they did me no good.
(Side Note: If you’re new in business, you might not understand this at all. When you’re new, you often think any referral is a good referral. You’re working hard to get established and just want to get any clients and work you can. But once you’ve gotten to a higher level in your business, you become more discerning and choosy about the clients and work that’s of value and interest to you. Fit is always important at any stage, but your definition of fit and what you are interested in, what you find worthwhile, will change and evolve over the course of your business.)
My best leads have always comes from my own networking.
If clients want to make a referral, I ask that they simply direct people to my website (instead of my phone number or email) so that it can do that critical first job of educating prospects and weeding out/prequalifying those I’m not interested in.
By getting them to the website, I save myself a lot of wasted time in conversation with people who may not be a fit.
Plus, directing folks to my website first, those who are interested in what they’re reading and what I have to offer, I’ve just created an opportunity to get them onto my mailing list so I’m only keeping in touch with those who’ve already indicated that first qualifying level of interest.
Those who follow up from there, thus, are vastly better qualified leads and more likely to become clients.
This actually brings up another point…
You have to actually INFORM clients that you welcome referrals and instruct them how to refer others to you and what kind of prospects/clients you are looking for.
This is why it’s also extremely helpful to have a target market and to be very clear about what you do and who you’re looking to work with.
When people know exactly what you are and who you do it for (e.g., NOT a gopher/jack of all trades, but an Administrative Support Specialist), it’s much easier for them to refer others to you and they will remember and be more likely to do so more often.
I would also ask, have you at least gotten a testimonial from your clients?
Instituting a regular and consistent program of feedback from clients in your business is super helpful for your marketing and constant business improvement.
I have a tool in the ACA Success Store that helps you do this and collects information from clients so that testimonials basically write themselves. You can take a look at that here: Client Feedback Form.
I refer to it as a form, but it’s really a plan and system for implementing a program of regular feedback in your business and capturing testimonials and before-and-after case studies.
So, is this something happening in your business as well?
Have you fallen prey to “secret weapon” syndrome and you find some clients don’t want to let anyone know about you because they don’t want to share you with others?
Or might their silence and lack of referrals be an indication of other underlying problems? Are they unhappy or resentful about something?
How is this affecting your relationship with them, and how does it fit in with your standards for your business and around who makes an ideal client?