Here’s an interesting statistic. More than 88% of online shoppers incorporate reviews into their purchase decision. Why? Because people only trust what a company says about themselves or their product so much. They want to know what other people think. The urge to ask for recommendations from friends, family, and even strangers (think reviews on Angie’s List) didn’t start with the internet. It is a natural part of the buying process.

So if looking for recommendations and reviews is an important part of the buying process, shouldn’t asking for recommendations be part of the selling process too? From gathering testimonials to place on your website and places like Angie’s List and TripAdvisor, to asking for personal introductions from one client to another, business owners need a referral process.

Unfortunately, many business owners essentially “dabble” in referrals. They are happy when someone endorses them, but don’t know how to go about asking for recommendations.  A systematic approach to making referrals happen on a consistent basis is not in place so they miss the opportunity to generate a steady flow of reviews, referrals, introductions, and recommendations.

Beyond building trust with live human beings who might actually purchase from you, these written comments appear all over the internet. Yelp, Facebook, Google My Business, Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, a wide range of other industry-specific referral sites, and of course your website. Search engines read and categorize all those comments and index them. That information is available when someone else goes looking for a company just like you!

So if referrals are so important why don’t business owners ask for them more often? Surprisingly it comes it often comes down to fear. Do any of these excuses sound familiar?

  • “I’m not sure when or how to ask.”
  • “I don’t like to ask for help, and it’s perceived as being unprofessional.”
  • “I don’t want to hear them say ‘no’ (in all the forms).”
  • “Most clients feel uncomfortable when asked for referrals.”

I am sure you have a few other excuses to add to the list. Go ahead, make them now, I will wait……

Now that you have the excuses out on the table, let’s talk about addressing them head-on.

When should you be asking for recommendations or referrals?

Start a conversation by asking what a client thinks of the work you have been doing. If they have complaints address them, and make a note to ask again in a follow-up conversation. But if (when) the client says they love working with you, they like what you did, or they are glad they hired you, that is the perfect time to ask if they would be willing to tell others.

Shy about asking face to face? Send an email and make it easy for them to respond. We have a standard email we send at the conclusion of every web design project. It includes login credentials, links to helpful sites, and a request for a testimonial. We include a link to our Google My Business Page to make it simple for our clients.

Concerned about what people will say? We have found a really cool product that you can use to capture reviews, address concerns, and integrate the positive responses on your website.  It is called MyReviewDashboard.

When it comes time to ask for a personal introduction, just as with a review, make it easy for your clients to refer you. Have a specific offer that you ask them to share instead of vaguely asking if they have friends or colleagues who might need your service.

Is asking for help unprofessional?

I am not sure where the idea of the entrepreneur hacking his way through the wilderness alone comes from, but it isn’t right. We are all part of a larger community, willingly helping others and in return feeling comfortable asking others for help.

I get it, no one wants to be that pushy salesperson who aggressively demands the names of six of your friends. I am not advocating that type of behavior. But making a simple request from time to time is not too pushy. Keep the request casual, and if they say no, let it go. On the flip side if they do make an introduction, make sure you send an appropriate thank you if the introduction turns into a sale.

Embrace the No

Many sales professionals will tell you that you have to wade through a lot of “nos” to get to the one yes. Every time someone says no, you are one step closer to getting the yes. It isn’t personal, if they turn you down, thank them anyway, and move on.

Looking for more tips on building a referral network?  Download our Healthy Networking Habits Guide