5 Obvious Referral Opportunities that People Miss

There’s no better way to make a sale than a happy customer spreading the word to her friends and colleagues. But most people treat referrals like “happy accidents,” rather than strategically cultivating them. Even if clients love you, it’s not often going to be top of mind for them to suggest your product or services. That’s why you need to remind them. Most people let their chance to “make the ask” fly by because they don’t recognize the opening. Here are five ways to spot them.

1.    When a client praises your work: When someone says you’ve done a great job, do you..blush? Mutter, “it was nothing”? Or say, “Thanks, Bob – it’s a pleasure working with you, and I’m so glad you’ve found it helpful. If you happen to know of anyone in a similar situation that you think could benefit from this kind of help, I’d really appreciate it if you’d be willing to introduce us.”

I think you know what to do.

2.    When you hit a project milestone: You don’t want to start badgering clients for names before the ink is dry on your first contract. But you also don’t have to wait until the end of your engagement. When you hit a project milestone – the completion of Phase 1, the training of all the headquarters staff but not the field staff, etc. – you’ve amply demonstrated your ability to deliver. Time to start asking, or at least planting the seed.

3.    When you see an opportunity: You’re leaving money on the table if you insist on scripting out every last detail of your referral asks – because opportunity will inevitably appear at unexpected moments. If the VP for Asian Operations is on site for a week, or you discover your client is on the board of a major industry group, don’t be afraid to seize the moment and make a particular request: Can you introduce me to so-and-so?

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Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You. She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, the National Park Service, and Yale University. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.