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7 Ways to Promote Referrals with Clients

by Bill Cates
7 ways to "plant referral seeds" to promote referrals and introductions with clients and prospects

For this moment in time, I’m going to assume you are highly referable. I mean, you are getting referrals and introductions without asking for them – from prospects, clients, and centers of influence – right?

Your referability (or lack thereof) will make or break your ability to get referrals and turn them into introductions.

You should know by now that I’m a big believer in asking for referrals and introductions – as long as you do it without pushing or begging.

But since you don’t want to ask too soon or ask too often, how else can you be appropriately proactive?   By promoting referrals.


Promoting Referrals: 7 Ways to Get Referrals without Asking


1. “By Referral Only”

What message would you be sending to your prospects and clients if you put the words By Referral Only on your business card and other places? That you’re good at what you do, so you’re in high demand? Yup! Can this statement be a bit aspirational for you at the moment? Sure. Use it anyway. Grow into it!


2. “As we go through the process, I’d like to alert you to something…”

Do you bring noticeable value to your prospects before they even become clients? Do they thank you for meeting with them (and for your insight), even before signing on the dotted line? If so, then you’re a candidate for this method.

“Angela – As we go through this process of determining what makes sense for you, I’d like to alert you to something that’s very common. You may very well find yourself thinking of other people who should probably, at least, know about the work I do. If that happens, please let me know. We’ll certainly stay focused on you for this meeting and at the end, chat a bit to see if it makes sense for you to introduce me to them.”


3. Celebrate meeting a new prospect through a referral.

Every time you meet a new prospect through a referral, celebrate it. Talk to them about the person you know in common. Tell the prospect, “It’s great Tom introduced me to you. When people see the value in the work I do, and introduce me to others as a result, everyone feels more comfortable and it frees me up to spend more time with my clients.”


4. “Don’t keep me a secret.”

I’ve been teaching this simple idea for over 20 years. It’s a little fun and never feels pushy to your prospects or clients. Does it turn into a referral conversation every time? Of course not, but for 20 years I’ve heard many great success stories this little phrase has generated referrals right on the spot.


5. “I’m never too busy.”

Tell all your clients that you’re “never too busy to see if you can help their friends, colleagues, or family members.” Notice how I said “to see.” We must always qualify the referrals we get and teach our clients whom we serve the best.


6. “How I handle introductions.”

Two of the main reasons why people are unwilling to give referrals are 1) they are concerned about confidentiality; and 2) they don’t know how you’ll handle the referrals (it’s a bit of a risk for them). So you can plant a seed and ease their concerns at the same time with the following language:

“George, there’s something I want to run by you. Many of my clients like to introduce me, and the work I do, to others whom they care about. When that opportunity presents itself, it would be good for you to know how I handle introductions, so that you’ll feel most comfortable.

“I don’t like to contact people without them knowing a little bit about who I am and why I’m calling. I don’t like to surprise people and make them wonder, ‘Why did George give my number out to this person?’ Make sense? (“Sure does.”) I’ve found that working through introductions is a much better way to go for everyone. So when you identify someone you think should know about the work I do, we can craft an introduction that will feel comfortable to you and them, and at least peak their interest a bit in hearing from me. How does that sound?”


7. Model the best way to give referrals.

You can assure yourself of higher-quality referrals by how you make introductions for others. Let’s say you’re referring an attorney to your client to update their estate planning. Don’t just give out a name and phone number. Get permission for the attorney to call your client. “I’ll have Mack give you a call to get this started.” This serves Mack, it serves your client (because they finally get their Will done) and it serves you. Then call your client in a few days to make sure Mack has called and everything is going smoothly.

By making introductions this way, you’ve done two things. First, you’ve demonstrated the power of referrals when handled with care. Second, you’ve modeled the best way to turn a referral into a solid introduction. When it comes time for your client (or Mack) to introduce you to others, you’ve shown them the best way.


Create Awareness – Build Your Referral Culture

It’s important that you’re not obnoxious about asking for referrals. And it’s equally important that you find soft ways to keep the topic lively in your clients’ awareness. Planting referral seeds will do that. Also, planting seeds in this way often helps you identify folks who are willing the play the referral game quickly in the relationship.


P.S. Don't Keep This a Secret!








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