We are a B2B Marketing Services agency. We also have extremely happy clients (directors / managers of marketing) that are happy to provide a raving testimonial, but as soon as we finish a project -- they're pretty done with us. Out of sight, out of mind. When we ask "Could you connect me with a few people I should talk to?" we get the typical response of "let me think about who" and then you never hear back from them. To combat this - we've tried to share our ICP or even go through their Linkedin to ask for a specific person. No response. I believe it happens this way since marketers are focused on one campaign at a time and when our services (badass animated video for sales and marketing) aren't needed - we're not a priority (we don't do retainer business; that's another story)). Often, these people come back for repeat business in 6-12 months. As soon as they need another video, we're friends again and communication with us is a high priority. We have a monthly marketing email to TRY to help keep us top of mind with these folks.
You need to make referrals a condition of doing business with you and do it upfront. Also, automate the referral ask. More details on "how to" below.
To do this: During your first interactions with a client (NOT after you have delivered or closed the sale, that's a rookie mistake), you can tell them....
"Listen, it's our job to treat you guys so well that you'll not only come back to us over and over again when you need help...it's our job to treat you so well that you'll feel comfortable with us enough to send your friends and colleagues our way when they need our help. Does that make sense?"
When they say "Yes" (and they won't say no) you say, "OK great, the way we do that is through referrals. So once you're happy and successful with us, we'll occasionally ask you for a referral. So, you get great work from a team you know and trust and you also get to connect people in your network to a service that you know works well so you look like a rockstar to your network.I want to make sure we can agree to that upfront? This is how we do business here and it holds us accountable to you and makes sure we deliver the absolute best product/service you've ever seen. So once you're happy will you send us referrals?"
Once they agree, you now have permission, and a verbal contract that they will send you referrals. Now, treat them like gold with this mentality that you not only want to give them a great finished product, but you want them to refer you. That should drive the work.
Once you've delivered...ask for the referral. Don't make the rookie mistake and just say one-time "hey do you know anyone that you could refer us to?" That will rarely work.
Instead, ask "Hey, do you remember when we started this project and we both agreed that if we delivered and made you both happy and successful that you would refer us to people in your network?"
Pause, shut up and listen, and let them say "yes".
Ask them first "So are you happy with what we've delivered?"
Pause, shut up and listen, and let them say "yes".
If they hesitate at all, they aren't happy and won't refer. Don't hold back and dive-in deep here. Say "I sensed a little hesitation. What's up? What are we missing? I want to help."
Figure out what's wrong, fix it, then ask them if they are happy.
Then say, "well I've been looking at your connections on LinkedIN and I noticed you are connected to (enter 2 names and company names here). Can youintroduce us so we could have a conversation and get to know them?"
The above means you have to do the research. You have to do the work. But the work upfront is much easier than dealing with a cold prospect. Most salespoeple/organizations just don't respect referrals enough to make them a priority. It's their loss and your gain if you follow this simple process. It's work. Just do the work and you might also find you get to know people and enjoy it. These are your customers. Treat them like people. Take care of them and they'll take care of you.
Once you make the ask, continue to mine referral leads and ask once a month. Follow-up until they answer. Follow-up until they tell you to stop. Phone is best but email works too. Use it as an opportunity to maintain and develop the relationship. Truly care about your clients and they will never tell you to stop following up. It will be like talking to an old friend and often this process leads to more sales from your past clients as you stay top of mind.
Want to automate this process...
FULL DISCLOSURE FIRST: I co-founded www.referralriver.com
If you want to automate the referral ask, try ReferralRiver. It's free and uses artificial intelligence to automatically research who is in your client's network and make the referral ask at the right time every month. It reduces your work significantly while you just Cc'ed on an email from your existing customers to new referral leads. It's freaking magical.
There are other services out there as well like LeadDyno (more of an affiliate program). You should try it all but the truth is that you have to make the agreement upfront and you have to get serious about making referrals a priority.
Book a call with me if you want to ask me any questions. Happy to help.