Receiving compliments on a job well done is a big motivator for passionate freelancers. But if you are not using these golden moments as an opportunity to ask for referrals from your clients, then you may be losing money. You are also missing out on a very vital strategy that can market your services with very little effort or time: the client referral. Cold calling or sending email queries are just two options to getting new clients. Referrals from recurring customers can generate continued revenue, and also open doors to better paying opportunities when the timing is right.
As a powerful selling tool, referrals can give you creditability and increase loyalty. Anyone can buy advertising time. What makes any freelancer viable is when a potential client mentions that they were referred by someone who has done or continues to do business with them. It’s just a proven fact. Most people prefer to do business with someone they know rather than a complete stranger.
To tap into the hidden talent behind this soft sell technique, we offer a few tips on how to rock referral requests naturally without using overly aggressive tactics:
- Advertise your acceptance of referrals. Whatever methods you use to advertise your services, make sure all your current clients know that you accept referrals. Email newsletters, business cards and websites are great ways to get the word out. It can be as simple as a statement that reads “referrals appreciated” or “referrals accepted.”
- Get into the habit. There are a number of ways to develop a referral request habit. One of them is to set a weekly or even monthly goal of reaching a specific number of referral requests. Prepare and practice your “referral request speech” so it’s ready when you need it. Obviously, when a customer compliments you, always respond with gratitude, but do follow-up by asking them if they know of others who would benefit from your service. Another proven method is to step up the referral requests by talking to at least three new people at a networking event or industry meeting. Be sure to give them your business card and ask them if they know of others who need your services. Also, keep track of people you have spoken with in the event someone does follow-up.
- Makes sure clients know your services. Clients can’t refer you if they are not aware of your services. Surprisingly, clients will assume they know more about your services than they do. If you are a marketing consultant, make sure your clients are also aware that you provide market research. If you’re a web developer, let them know that you also provide hosting as part of your service.
- Create an interactive form for referrals. You can also make it easier on your clients by creating a referral page on your website. Explain how a referral works with you, what you do specifically, and most of all who benefits from your services. Also be sure to explain exactly what happens once someone refers you. Do you get in touch by phone or Skype? Do you also plan to keep the person who referred you in the loop?
- They may not do referrals; no problem. Would they allow a testimonial? If they don’t feel comfortable writing one, ask if you can write one for them. If it’s still no sell, it’s best to stop there. It is always far better to save a relationship, than be pushy and risk everything you have gained with a client.
- Generate buzz on social media. Whether it’s Facebook, Linked In or Twitter, mention that you accept referrals. You’ll cast a wider net, especially if your site receives a decent amount of traffic. For example, mention a discount for every referral you receive.
- Share content that your clients can reshare. When you come upon information that might be valuable or intriguing to your clients, share it. It can be as simple as an industry article, upcoming local event, or breakfast seminar. As long as it’s something unique or special they wouldn’t mind passing on to their own network.
- Recognize and thank your referral. Be sure to thank those who have referred you by offering a discount of some kind on the next collaborative project. Sending a handwritten thank you note or letter is certainly more memorable than an email.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. However, once you start asking for referrals and gain confidence, it will begin to feel more natural to you. Just remember to focus on clients you believe to be ideal. In no time at all, you’ll receive quality referrals that generates more income with little to no risk.