There are plenty of ways to get new clients and customers through your doors--the process of finding potential customers is called "lead generation."

One of the best ways to get clients or customers is through referrals.

But Catherine, I don't know what to say to get referrals!

I don't have time to set up some fancy referral automation.

I can't get people to refer others on my behalf. They don't follow through.

How do I follow up on referrals? When do I ask for a referral?

First of all, you just have to go for it.

Don't be afraid of the ask. Rejection is a normal part of business--you can't win 'em all, and trust me, you won't want to. You want people who are your target market, are warmed up, and either a) know you through your other marketing campaigns or b) trust you because they've been referred in some way by a friend or family member.

Secondly, you need to SCHEDULE IN referral-asking as part of your ongoing strategy.

You ask for referrals at point of sale (or contract signing) and then 1-3 months later, depending on your customer's buying cycle. [You can also ask for referrals PRIOR to sale, but it almost never works if the customer isn't already excited about your stuff.]

Here are two ways to ask for referrals.

The "Getting Off at the Next Elevator Floor" Approach

This is a good one for lower-priced products and services. You have 60 seconds to ask for a referral. It's right after you've signed a contract together, or they're at the register, paying for their product. You show gratitude and excitement to have them on board. You have a business card or flier ready. You say, "I'm excited to have you as a new client/happy to have you as a new customer. Can you think of anyone else who would enjoy this particular service/product?” [Don't say need or want. Say enjoy. It's a psychological tweak that registers.] Give them a minute. Smile. If they say yes, respond with, "Great! Give them this card and tell them to pop in and see me/call me directly. I'll make sure they get the same top notch service."

The "Here's How This Is Better For You Long Term" Approach

This is good for higher-priced services and products. At the time of service or contract signing, you say, "Look, I want to spend time supporting you. I want to spend time supporting each client 100%. I don’t prefer to spend time marketing and spending all this extra time and energy and money because that cost ultimately gets passed on to you in the end. I don’t want to do that. I want to work with amazing people who are a good fit, where we don't have to go out and do proposals and advertising all the time to people who won't stick and take that potential energy away from you and my solid clients. Who else can you think of that would be a good fit to work with me?”

Why these approaches work: You don't have a business if you don't have customers or clients. They are part of your team on your way to success. So when communicating with them, treat them like teammates instead of walking human wallets. Be forward and authentic and honest. You don't even have to bring money or discounts or anything in to the conversation. Be bold and go for the ask.

Avoid putting the follow-up responsibility in the customers' hands. Get the contact info or referral info directly from them in that moment if you can. Phone number, email, website, whatever. Make them take a picture of the product in the store right then and send it to their friend via text with your store phone number. Be creative! You don't want to spend three weeks waiting for a lukewarm intro email to come through and you don't want to have to follow up with a customer five times to get it.

No immediate referral? Make it easy the 2nd time around. Send an easily-forwardable email OR a direct mail SASE postcard in an envelope 1-3 months after. Ask your customer to send back to you 2 names of potential customers or clients who would enjoy X Service/Product (be specific when listing the service: your customers are not interested in YOU or the BUSINESS, they're interested in what you DO for them, so name that service/product/experience, not the company itself in your marketing materials).

TAKE ACTION: Schedule a consult with me and get your referral and word-of-mouth marketing plan in place by next week.

DISCUSS: What are your strategies for getting customers to refer friends and families to your business?