Written by Ari Greenbaum, co-founder of conXpros
Working with home improvement pros and managing sales teams directly engaged with these pros for as many years as I have, you learn valuable information and ideas. It would be impossible to count how frequently a sales call to a contractor is met with the statement “I don’t need a lead service, I get all of my business from referrals”. From having been on the other side of the coin (I worked as a contractor and sold home improvement services for a few years), I can say with complete certainty, that the entire world of home improvement and home services is not thriving and growing from only word of mouth referrals. I am sure that a select few pros have the long-term history and perform such a high quality of work, that they do keep themselves slammed with word of mouth referrals. For the rest of us, it is a nice line attempting to get rid of the salesperson soliciting their business. With all of this being said, asking for and receiving referrals is an art form. Most people do not refer (in bulk) others to you solely because of the quality of your work. Rather, referrals need to be cultivated and nurtured to create a steady pipeline of prospects waiting for you to help them.
Most salespeople fail to get referrals from their existing customer base for a variety of reasons. However, most fit into one of the primary reasons: Fear of rejection/hearing “no”, waiting too long
Fear of Rejection
Hearing the word “no” can be defeating. As a result, we often avoid situations that will have a possibility of hearing this dreaded word. Anyone in sales already understands that you have to navigate through the “no’s” to get to the “yes”. We work so diligently to get that yes from our client, so why stop after the sale is made? The fear is real, but unfortunately it prevents a huge potential for additional customers. When is the client most likely to offer referrals? Long down the road when you are far from the front of their thoughts? Or perhaps, you are more likely to receive a referral (or two) when the client is still swimming in the ether. The same ether that motivated them to say yes in the first place. What better time than the present? Funny thing is, if you are asking at this point, most people will not blow you off with a “no”. If they are not immediately offering referrals, they will at worst let you down gently and suggest that they will “think about it and let you know” or something less defeating than the dreaded “no”.
Waiting too long
When we do not ask as described above, the typical scenario is that we work to develop a relationship, deliver the product or service, lose touch for a bit, and then circle back around for the referral. The problem is, most of us feel like we are imposing on the client. Suddenly out of the blue, we are going to ask for them to turn over their friends or family? It just feels weird. Even if you get the gumption to ask at this point, the issue is that the referral will be less about YOU and more about how well your product or service performed. A referral is a personal thing. When I am asked for a referral, I do not say “I have a great guy that has an awesome product you must have”. Rather it sounds more like “You gotta talk to _______, they are the best!” It is the person not the product.
An additional factor when asking for a referral this late in the game, is that there is no other real purpose to the interaction, other than the referral. You can dress it up however you choose, but at the end of the day, the truth is you are calling to get a referral. Do you think the client is likely to refer you to their friends or family so you can SELL to them? I can assure you that this is less likely when the “ether” mentioned above has fully worn off.
Asking for Referrals
Not everyone is going to be a pro at asking for referrals, but it is something that we can all do. With effort and commitment, you will increase the number of clients and the ease at which you acquire them by asking! Get over the fear of rejection and stop procrastinating.
The timing is essential to having the best opportunity to secure referred prospects. I suggest that the optimal moment is AFTER the deal is consummated (contract signed, exchange of money, etc). There is a high level of anxiety for a client before they have said yes. This anxiety starts to subside and exits with the conclusion of that deal. This is the “green light moment” to ask for referrals! You do not need to be pushy, rather a friendly and sincere appeal. Let the client know how important referrals are to the continued growth of your business. Approach it with a simple question to see if they have anyone else in mind that may benefit, like they did, from the services you offer.
Not getting the immediate referral is not the end of the world. Take advantage of the opportunity to plant the seeds for the ask in the near future. This is the “Thank you” approach and It goes something like this: “Thank you for trusting me with your business. My business depends on my clients introducing me to other people who might value the solutions I am creating for you. If everything is perfect and I do good work, may I ask you to make an introduction to someone you believe might need my help in the future?” The key is planting the seed and making sure to follow up and harvest the fruit as soon as the project is completed.
There is no perfect formula for referrals and how to successfully get them. However, there is only one approach that gives you the real opportunity to win; Don’t delay! Ask early, plant seeds, and don’t wait to ask again. Warm referrals beat any other form of customer acquisition. It takes work, but it is worth it!