How to ask for a testimonial or referral

Marketing by getting referrals is not only simple and effective, it's wonderfully inexpensive...  

You can find easily new prospects just by asking peers, associates and existing customers. A typical lead closing ratio for non-referred leads is around 10% versus a typical 60% closing ratio with referred leads.

Getting customer testimonials is incredibly powerful form of marketing or lead generation because the reader (a prospect) will trust the words in the testimonial far more than they will trust the words which they attribute to you... 
 
The benefits of getting referrals and using testimonials include a shorter sales cycle, higher conversion rates, and a higher return-on-investment (ROI). When you connect with a referred prospect there will be little convincing because your customer already pre-sold your services improving your sales cycle and conversion rate. Testimonial's produce similar improvements because with an effective testimonial a previous happy customer's positive words, which you can use in a story you tell verbally or use in a written word format, can have three times the weight of your own. 

So what is the problem with this approach..?

Very few business owners or sales people actually ask for referrals or testimonials because few people understand how to raise the topic and fear embarrassment or rejection. 

What are the keys to securing these precious words of appreciation from others?

  • Trust is key
The reason referrals and testimonials are so effective is because they carry immediate credibility. Trust is also the key in asking – where ever you have strong and valued relationships with peers, associates and existing customers you'll find that people have sufficient trust in you that they feel safe in handing you something very precious to them – access to their network and/or use of their name... 
  • Remember to actually ask 
Many people believe that doing a good job is all that's necessary to generate both referrals and testimonials – that will be a no then – Even when customers are terrifically satisfied, they forget to refer business mostly because your needs are not on their minds. Get into the habit of asking every satisfied client if he or she knows people who would have the same types of problems they did and might also appreciate your services.
  • Ask clients that are happy
Going the extra mile can pay off big time. Every time you get positive feedback, you have an opportunity to ask for a referral or a testimonial. Not all customers are referral or testimonial candidates. Find the top 20% (your Pareto customers) these are likely to be the happiest about your business and ask them for referrals and testimonials. Make sure their network is the type of client you want. 
  • Don't worry about rejection.  
There's nothing wrong in asking for a referral where you've solved a problem or delivered something of value to your client. Not everyone is going to need what you are selling, but a quality product or service does have a market. Ask. Ask. Ask 
  • Flatter egos.  
Make a big deal about a referral or testimonial, so customers know how important it is for your business. 
  • Think vertical. 
The customers of your suppliers, vendors and support services might also want your product. Create a reciprocal arrangement. Target complementary businesses that might refer customers to you.  
  • Set up a system  
Include client referrals and testimonials as a seamless part of your marketing plan. Encourage referrals by offering a complimentary gift certificate for services to any client who requests a gift certificate, gives you a referral or testimonial.  People will then be able to pass along your services to people they know themselves.... 
  • If at all possible, avoid ask for a referral when presenting a bill.  
The conversation that proceeds the request for a referral or testimonial is best about the value you've delivered to their business by solving a problem, digging them out of a hole or delivering something ahead of time or above specification. When ever you can reasonably and appropriately ask about any of those value adding moments – then is the best time to ask for referrals and testimonials – either or both...
  • Referrals requests work better face-to-face. 
It's not only more respectful of your clients it is also more successful. People will always be more likely to do something for someone else if the person is standing right in front of them. It is more acceptable to ask for referrals by email or phone if your normal business relationship is totally, or almost totally over the phone.
  • When you ask for a referral – ask for a testimonial too 
The time that you're asking for referrals is also an excellent time to ask a client for a testimonial, a short written endorsement of your company and/or your work that you can use on your website, use in brochures, or in short success stories you re-tell verbally to pre-handle objections or explain an advantage of your service.  Don't expect anyone to write a testimonial for you on the spot; either leave them a template or a short questionnaire or form that they can use to prompt them and ask them to email their thoughts to you. 
  • Set A Target 
In business, measure the results to improve performance. Set a clear goal with a time line. Example, 10 referrals collected by X date and 10 testimonials collected by X date.
  • Give and You'll Receive 
Give your clients extra service and follow-up support before asking for referrals. When you give willingly to your customers, they will return the favour. You could also refer them to other you know and start the ball rolling. Givers typically gain.
  • Type of Customer 
Inform your referring clients of the type of customers you can help, explain your ideal prospect profile to them as it is likely to provide a clear picture of the customer demographics and characteristics you are looking for. And it is a good test of the profile because if they don't understand it or recognise people in their network who exhibit similar characteristics then may be it needs rewriting... 
  • Create a basic thank you letter  
Treat your referral sources with the utmost of care and you will not only build a foundation of trust but keep hot prospects coming to your door, thank people in writing by post – make it special – not just an email...
  • Asking more than once
Studies have shown that those salespeople who do ask generally only ask once. Certainly, asking once is better than not asking at all. But statistically, asking once will only generate 1.47 names and phone numbers. However, the same studies that show salespeople receive less than one and a half referrals when they only ask once show that salespeople who ask for referrals twice receive 2.03 names and phone numbers from each client. And those who had the temerity to ask a third time? They received, on average, 3.28 referrals from each customer.
 
Therefore, for every 10 customers asked, these salespeople receive 32 referrals, more than three times the number of the salesperson who only asks once. You think they might make more sales than the person who isn’t asking or who only asks once–or even those who ask twice?

In summary

Make giving and asking for referrals part of a natrual and normal way you build your business relationships and network. It can easily be one of your most productive and profitable channels to new business.

If you need addtional ideas on asking for referrals or have a question or comment - please contact me here

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