Are you harnessing the power of referrals?

By Evan Rubenstein
Clever marketers understand that every new customer costs money, and one sure way to diminish that cost is to get referrals for new customers from existing customers – at virtually no cost.
Contemplate this: If every customers introduced you to only two more customers, how long would it take you to have an enormous business? Not long. The simplest way to do this is to ask. The trick is to choose the right moment; when you are in credit in their emotional bank account.
So when are these moments? Well, there are several.
Obviously the best time is when the customer is feeling great. This could be straight after they have made their purchase. At this time they are likely to be very enthusiastic about the product and eager to have their own ego’s stroked or validate their purchase by spreading the good word.
Another good time to ask for a referral is after you have delivered. This could take place either at your place of business or at theirs. As soon as they grasp the reality of being in possession of the new product, that’s the time to ask the question. Their feeling of satisfaction can be shaped into one of appreciation and the referrals will flow.
Surprisingly, a good moment to ask for a referral is if your prospect does not buy.  It may be a feeling of guilt or inadequacy, but you will have the psychological advantage. They will try and make themselves feel a little better by giving you some names of people who may be interested in your product or service.
If you do it right, you can revisit the question of referrals several times during the lifetime of your relationship with your customer. Often they will not be able to think of anyone when put on the spot. Over a period of time however, as they go about their business, their memories will be triggered. As long as you have told them how important referrals are to you, and that you will be following up and asking them. In most cases, when you do, you will be pleasantly surprised.
One of the most important techniques for getting your customers to think of names for you is to use prompters.  The first type of prompter is categories. Have a list of likely categories to go through with them to prompt their memory.   As you run through your list, they will make the associations you need and the names will pop right out. The next prompter is to ask for them using emotional prompts such as: “Who do you know that has been really successful?”, “Who are your closest friends” etc etc.
The last form of prompting is to show them you mean business, When the subject of conversation turns to referrals, take out a pen and paper in anticipation. Get them to brainstorm names – don’t ask questions about each one until you have exhausted their list.
Whenever you get a referral, keep the referrer informed about the progress that you are making. They will feel appreciated and often give you more names. Show your gratitude and appreciation by rewarding the referrer with a gift. If business results from a referral, make it something special!
Make referrals a habit. Practice obtaining referrals on an ongoing and regular basis. Teach it to your staff and make sure that they become enthusiastic about it too. Set some goals with them and track the progress. It will be well worth your while.

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