Getting a customer referral is one of best ways to build your business. But there are right ways and wrong ways to go about asking for one. Are you asking for them the right way?
If you’re not used to it, asking for referrals is hard. It feels awkward, a little pushy, and can make everyone involved feel uncomfortable if you’re not careful. But there are some contractors who work on referrals alone! How can they possibly do that? Well, to start, they’ve figured out the best ways to go about asking for them in the first place.
The key to asking for referrals is remembering that every job is a chance to form a lasting relationship. As Ray Silverstein recommended in Entrepreneur, “Imagine your business as an infinite web of relationships.” People are always more likely to trust information that comes from someone they trust, which means that a recommendation from your last happy client is much more likely to lead to a new job than cold calling or advertising would alone. Of course, this all depends on your work being solid, and the relationships you’ve made being good ones - that’s why clients are willing to give you referrals in the first place. Since we know you’ve got that covered (and if not, we’re sure you’re reading our previous posts to help, like this one and this one), let’s get down to when and how to ask for those referrals without damaging your existing relationships.
When to Ask
Timing is everything, and the first good time to ask for referrals is surprisingly before you finish a job for a client. As soon as they know they can trust you and that you do amazing work (and before they have a chance to forget it), you should ask them to pass your name to anyone else who needs similar work done. This is a natural time to get your request out in the open and for your customer to start thinking about their friends and family without getting distracted by anything else.
We’ve written before about the importance of following-up with ‘thank yous’ to customers, and that’s another great time to ask for referrals. In your thank you note, email, or call, don’t be afraid to send a business card and ask the client to show off the work you did for them to others. Sometimes a gentle reminder is all they need.
During the Work
If you’re working on a project and your client gives you great feedback or a compliment, jump on the opportunity it presents! It’s much easier to slip in “thanks! If you know of anyone else looking for this type of project, send them my way!” when your customer is already in a happy mood about your work. Plus, you’ll seem confident in your work without coming across as pushy or arrogant.
How to Ask
Leave Your Information
When clients are telling others to call you, having a few of your business cards or a pamphlet or two describing what you do ensures the right information gets to where it needs to go. After the project is finished, ask if they’d mind if you left some information for them to pass on to friends, and make sure the information is clean and clear! For advice on how to make sure your info is effectively presented check out this article on copywriting!
Give Specific Instructions
If a homeowner has already offered to write a testimonial for you, it’s easy to think your work is done. However, it’s very important to give them specific instructions for how to go about doing that. Ask them to post online on particularly visible sites like Facebook, Yelp, and your own company website.
If you’re in a (financial) place to do this, this is one of the few times it can be worth it to offer discounts, either for clients who refer you or clients who hire you because of a referral. Don’t go overboard, but there’s nothing wrong with sweetening the deal!
And Don’t Forget…
...to show gratitude, in simple thank you’s and by giving your own referrals! For instance, if you know and respect other contractors doing complementary work to what you do, don’t hesitate to share their information out when it’s helpful. More likely than not, they’re return the favor, and both of you will appear helpful and respectful to homeowners while generating new business for each other. Win-win!