How To Get More Referrals

This is the first of a number of articles I intend to write about referrals.

I split referrals into two categories:

  1. solicited referrals
  2. word of mouth

A solicited referral is where you ask the client for the name of someone you could contact (or that the client could contact on your behalf).

A word of mouth referral is when a client goes out into the world, notices someone that would benefit from doing business with you, and tells him about you.

Both of these types of referral can be increased dramatically with the use of effective referral systems and scripting.

However, today, I’m only going to talk about the latter type, word of mouth.

This is when the client believes that he had an excellent experience doing business with you and wants the people he knows to benefit in the same way.

So, how can we make this happen more often?

A study I read recently claimed that, if a customer has a bad experience with a business, he tells eleven people. However, if he has a positive experience, he only tells four people.

This suggests that there are two areas where we can increase word-of-mouth business:

(1) We can increase the number of clients who feel they’ve had a good experience


(2) We can increase the average number of people they tell.

I’m going to give you some ideas that will help you achieve this.

(1) Increase the number of people who feel they’ve had a good experience

The key word here is “feel”.

After all, you could do a great job for a client but, if the client can’t appreciate what you’ve done for him, he’s not going to feel you’ve done an great job.

I’ll give you an example from my own life.

A number of years ago, I hired an Estate Agent when I wanted to buy a flat. It was the first time I had ever hired an Estate Agent, so I had no real idea what to expect.

Did the Estate Agent do a good job for me?

I’ve no idea. He may have been good. He may have been poor. He may have been average. I’ve no idea, as I’m not capable of telling the difference between a good Estate Agent and a poor Estate Agent.

And, because I couldn’t tell if he did a good job, I couldn’t feel confident recommending him, so I never sent him any referrals.

And, three years later, when I moved again, because I couldn’t appreciate what he did for me, I had no motivation to use him again and used a different firm instead.

However if, when I first used him, he had walked me through all the things he had done for me and helped me understand how he had served me well, I would have been able to appreciate the quality of his work.

Then I’d have felt comfortable enough to advise my friends and family to use his services, and I would have used him when I moved three years later.

So, if he did a good job for me, he made a big mistake that cost him a lot of business.

He probably felt that, if he did offered a good service, clients would automatically understand this.

This is a big mistake. Don’t assume people will understand what you’ve done for them. It’s your job to help them understand. It’s you job to educate them

How do you do this? One way is to have a unique selling point that positively differentiates you from your competitors. Another is to walk the client through what you’ve done so he can see where the exceptional service was and can understand what it means to the result.

(2) Increase the average number of people they tell

The second way to increase word-of-mouth is to increase the number of people the client tells about his positive experience.

Just by explaining to him how you have exceeded your competitors should increase this number. After all, it’s a lot easier to recommend a service when you’ve a clear understanding of the benefits that service brings.

A more powerful way is to take the advantage you’ve shown the client and frame word-of-mouth referrals as a good deed he does, not for you, but for his friends, family and colleagues.

Let’s face facts, unless your client is a close friend, he’s not going to do as much for you as he would do for his friends.

You might as well accept this and use it in your favour. When you ask your client to mention you to his family and friends, the request should be made from the position of him helping his friends get the same benefit that he got from doing business with you.

Using the Estate Agent as an example again, you could say something like:

“We’ve gone over the money you gained by working with me, and we’ve agreed that you’re £x better off as a result. And that’s come from the things I do that my competitors don’t.

“Now, I know that, in your life, there are people you care about, people you want the best for. And there are going to be times when these people are going to be thinking about moving home.

“And, because you care about them, you’re going to want them to get the best price for their home.

“So, to help them get that, it’s probably in their interests to at least know about the quality of the work I’ve done for you.

“Whether they choose to ask me to help them or whether they go with someone else, you’re going to know that you’ve done your part as their friend and made sure they knew their options, so they can make the best choice and get the service they deserve.”

Now, compare that to what Estate Agents usually say (“I’ll give you some of my cards. If you know anyone who’s moving home, ask them to call me”).

Can you see that doing things my way might get a greater result?

And you can use a variation of this if you’re a financial advisor, a plumber, a web designer … or pretty much any other service business.

Of course, this is based on you offering a genuinely exceptional product or service.

If you don’t do that, if you’re only run-of-the-mill, change that.

It’s simply not worth being average. In most industries, it’s so much easier to build quality into your business than it is to struggle along as just “one of the crowd”.

If you’re exceptional (even if that excellence is only beneficial to a segment of the market), you can use these techniques (and others) to get a huge number of testimonials and create tremendous client loyalty.

And that’s when business becomes easy and fun. And that’s the only business that I think is worth having.

However, if for some reason, you can’t create something exceptional, you should, at least, be exceptional as a person.

An Estate Agent I met would send every client a gift (usually a card, a bunch of flowers and a bottle of wine) when they moved into their new home.

She knew that, when people move home, they invite their friends and family to visit. These guests would see the big bunch of flowers and ask who sent it.

So, they’d learn that this person has an Estate Agent who is personal and thoughtful. And they’d probably remember that, when they moved home, all their Estate Agent sent them was the bill.

So, the Estate Agent would end up picking up some clients for this small investment in customer care.

I hope that this newsletter has given you some tools that you will use to bring in extra business.

We’ve only touched the tip of what you can do to get more referrals. I’ve not even talked about solicited referrals or how you can use incentives and rewards to encourage your clients to send you even more business.

In the future, I’m going to write about these and other techniques that you can use to further increase the number of referrals you get.

If you don’t feel like waiting - if you want all the referrals your business deserves (and you want them now) -  I teach businesses how to get more referrals when I create marketing plans for them.

To learn more about this, please click here

Best wishes

Steve Gibson


Copyright Steve Gibson Consulting 2006 - -