Captain’s log, stardate 20170914
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How to ask for referrals with tact
Sent by Jonathan Stark on September 14th, 2017
Yesterday, I suggested that most developers don’t ask for referrals because they don’t understand WHY clients hired them in the first place, and therefore secretly fear that their clients are disappointed in their work.
Since referrals are probably the easiest, quickest, and most reliable way to land more (and better!) clients, we should probably resolve to correct this situation. 🙂
Following is a blow by blow description of how I handle referrals.
Setting the stage for referrals
It’s easier to ask for referrals if you set the stage early on. Imagine if you started each engagement with the thought:
“How can I delight this client so thoroughly that they WANT to refer me to their colleagues?”
For me, successfully delighting a client (i.e., delivering 100% customer satisfaction) starts with my very first conversation with the prospect.
In order to deliver 100% customer satisfaction, I need to know what outcome is going to satisfy them.
(To use a sports analogy: It’s pretty hard to dunk if you don’t know where the basket is.)
How do I find out what the client’s desired outcome is?
I push past their self-diagnosis and uncover their root motivation by having a Why Conversation in our initial meeting.
- Why This? (e.g., “Why not NOT do this project? What will happen if you leave things as they are?”)
- Why Now? (e.g., “You’ve known about this issue for a long time... why is it suddenly urgent? What changed?”)
- Why Me? (e.g., “Why not do this internally? Why not outsource to India?”)
For more about how to have a Why Conversation, listen to episode 10 of my podcast Ditching Hourly.
When to ask for referrals
For project work, I think the best time to ask for a referral is in the afterglow phase that follows successful completion.
I’ve heard other folks recommend asking for referrals before the project is done but that always seemed awkward to me so I’ve never done it.
How to ask for referrals
The way I ask for referrals is an organic process. After a project concludes successfully, I’ll suggest having a wrap-up meeting. During that meeting, the buyer will often spontaneously say something complementary about my work.
I’ll reply with something very genuine like:
“Wow! That is very nice to hear. Thank you for saying so! I really appreciate it.”
After the meeting, I’ll follow up via email with the person who made the comment with something like:
“Thanks again for your kind words in the meeting! It really means a lot to me to know that you’re happy with the outcome. It’s totally fine to say no, but... would it be okay for me to share your praise on my site?”
The recipient will either say “Sure! Go for it!” or “Sorry! I’d like to but that’s against our policy.”
- If they say “Sure!”, I’ll post on my site and then send them a link for review. Then they’ll reply with a thumbs up or maybe ask for a couple of minor changes, which I’ll of course do promptly.
- If they say “Sorry, that’s against policy,” I’ll reply with something like, “No problem. I totally understand.”
Either way, our back and forth will have thoroughly cemented the satisfaction in their mind.
At that point, I think it’s the ideal time to ask for a referral. Something like:
“As you probably know, referrals are the lifeblood of a business like mine. Can you think of anyone in your professional network who be a good fit for an introduction?”
Go forth and ask!
Hopefully using the approach I have described here will make you more comfortable asking for referrals.
I can almost guarantee that doing so will transform your business for the better. Higher fees, better clients, and maybe even a waiting list.
P.S. I’m getting ready to launch a live group video coaching service that will be dramatically more affordable than my private mentoring program.
If private mentoring is out of reach for you right now but you’re anxious to get your questions answered in an interactive real-time format, group coaching might be a perfect fit for you.
For first dibs at a launch spot, reply to this message with a YES!!! and I’ll add you to the early announcement list.
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