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Referrals will either come naturally as part of a conversation or via a referral strategy. Asking for referrals is not a sign of desperation. It’s about keeping your sales pipeline topped up by using your network to refer you into others.  By being referred you have naturally skipped the first four stages of the sales funnel and dramatically reduced the sales cycle.

Start with your trusted customers

Customers who have previously provided you with a testimonial, review or recommendation and are typically happy to hear from you are your starting point. If it’s possible, make a concerted effort to meet them for a coffee and see if you can help them in return.

Don't leave it too long

Ask for a referral towards the end of the project or upon delivery of the product when the working relationship is still very fresh and you’re in the ‘honeymoon’ stage. If everything has gone to plan, it’s an ideal time to ask your customer if they can make an introduction or know of any opportunities.

Contact your close network

Your network typically comprises your peer group, trusted suppliers and associates. Give them an idea of the kind of customers you’re looking for, so they can focus their efforts and provide you with qualified leads.

Email over some details and a brochure PDF so they can forward onto their contact if they have identified a need for your product or service.

Identify companies already selling to your audience

Explore your network and identify those whose audience is the same as yours. This approach works well for complimentary products and services i.e. a graphic design agency working alongside a printer or a recruitment company working with HR specialists.

Implement marketing activities

Referral programs can greatly enhance your chance of success. Discounts, offers, promotions and freebies work well. Everyone is different so think about who you are aiming the referral program at and then identify the most appropriate incentive i.e. customers referring get a 10% discount on their next order.

Make the relationship more official

Offer a referral fee or develop an alliance so that all parties are referring and being referred. This approach usually involves a degree of accountability with regular meetings in place to go through contacts, identify opportunities and review progress.

Keep your referrer in the loop

I come across associates and clients all the time where the person or company they’ve referred in has not kept them updated or even said thank you. They soon stop referring. It’s just basic etiquette and there are no excuses for it.

Meet or exceed expectations

It’s your reputation at stake – and that of your referrer – so due diligence should be at the forefront of your mind before referring a company. I will only refer those I know & trust and my advice would be to do the same. Similarly, if you don’t do a good job or your products don’t live up to expectations, your referrers will stop recommending you to others.