Too often, businesses overlook referrals. They expect referrals to take care of themselves, or they just don’t know how to get to them. But referrals are among the most significant sales tools at your disposal. They cost you very little to encourage and receive, and they should be a focal point for your business if you are looking to drive more opportunities and generate more sales.

So, how do you change your habits to start translating your existing customer relationships into new ones? What are the best ways to secure a referral from your current customers?

Make Your Customers Happy
To make referral marketing a proactive part of your lead generation activities, you need to be referable. If your existing customers are pleased with your products and services, most will be happy to provide a referral. The key is to make it a great experience for them to do business with you. Make sure that you are delivering value and that you are providing high quality products and services that meet or exceed your customers’ expectations. Also, when you make promises or commit to deadlines or delivery dates, make sure to deliver on those commitments. Doing the little things to stand out from other vendors and making your current customers happy will pave the way for referrals.

Ask for Referrals
There are two ways to get a referral: one is to wait and hope, and the other is to ask for it. If you’ve delivered value and great service to your customers, you can always wait and hope that another company, colleague, or acquaintance will ask them for a referral and they will recommend you. These types of passive referrals can and do happen, but your customers are busy growing their own businesses and are not focused on driving opportunities to you as a vendor or partner. So these referrals are likely to be infrequent and sporadic.
To be proactive and get referrals in greater numbers, all you need to do is ask. Once you’ve established a relationship with a customer and have done your due diligence to deliver value, ask your customer for a referral. Ask if anyone comes to mind who might also benefit from your products or services. With this prompt, many customers will provide you with a specific referral or perhaps even several of them.
However, even if a specific referral doesn’t immediately come to mind, you will have planted a seed that could bear fruit in the future, and with some further thought or when the right opportunity emerges, your customer will be more likely to come back to you with a referral or pass along your information to a potential new client.
Also, keep in mind that referrals can be mutually beneficial. When asking for referrals, you can also offer to refer your customer to other businesses that may have a need for their products or services. Offering to refer your customers is a great way to encourage them to do the same for you.

Create Referral Campaigns and Programs
To encourage referrals from your existing customers, you can create special programs, promotions and marketing campaigns, including contests and incentives. You can use simple messages and ads on your website or in your email marketing, social media, newsletters, or other marketing channels to conduct your referral campaigns and programs. In exchange for referrals, you can offer discounts on products or services, gift cards, or other incentives.
Integrating referral campaigns and programs into your regular sales and marketing communications will increase the frequency and total volume of your referrals, and, to take it a step further, you can include flyers and other information about your referral programs in your product shipments or in your final sales or billing documents.

Don’t Wait for the Pipeline to Dry Up
Some companies don’t think about referrals or don’t ask for them until they suddenly have a need for new sales leads and opportunities. Don’t wait for your pipeline to stop flowing! Put a referral process into place now, and consistently drive quality referrals to keep your pipeline full and flowing.
By establishing a referral process and making it a regular, well-practiced habit, you will have greater success in generating referrals and will inevitably generate more opportunities for your business. Waiting for your pipeline to dry up will put greater pressure on your efforts, and only occasionally asking for referrals will make it less likely that you will have a polished approach that will get results. Ultimately, by avoiding this and making referrals a focal point and a key component of your business, you can keep your pipeline from slowing or drying up in the first place.

Get People Talking About You
There are two primary strategies to get people talking about your business. The first is to publicize your client list, making it prominent on your website and in other marketing collateral. Not all businesses may have this option, but, for those that do, many are nervous about making their client list public. They worry that sharing the names of clients will provide opportunities for competitors to pursue those accounts and steal the business.
However, the benefits of publicizing your clients always outweigh the risks. Publicizing your clients generates credibility and shows prospects that they should be talking to you. It is a way for your customers to continuously provide referrals by lending their name recognition to your sales and marketing efforts.
To flesh out the narrative behind your client relationships, the second strategy to get people talking about you is to create case studies or similar collateral and make them highly visible on your website. These materials can help prospective clients get a feel for the experience of doing business with your company—including how you think about problems and deal with challenges that arise. It also allows them to see what work you’ve done with other clients in the past and can give them useful information on how to contact your business.

If you take these steps and focus on referrals, you will discover just how easy it is to put your existing customer relationships to work for you, and you will inevitably drive more opportunities to your business and generate more sales.

To learn more about ways that you can grow your business by getting organized, cultivating the right habits, and executing the right strategies, check out our other recent blog articles.