“The purpose of a business is to create a customer who creates customers.”
– Shiv SinghYour field service business may have hit a plateau. You were growing well for a long time, but that’s leveled off. And you don’t have more money this month to invest in leads. If you haven’t unlocked your most powerful source of new customers–your existing customers–then you’re missing out on a real, high quality growth opportunity. There may be a lot of reasons why referrals aren’t a big part of your current business. You might not be sure how to go about it, or you might not want to bother your existing customers. But once you unlock the secret to getting referrals, it becomes very easy.
The secret? Just ask.It’s very similar to a situation I encountered while working with students, coaching them on how to interview for jobs. It was a stressful time; these students had spent a lot of money on an education and the job market was tight. Interviewing effectively and nailing the interview could mean the difference between launching a career and paying off their student loans or being unemployed. I noticed that the majority of the students would do everything really well, answer every question, but then at the end of the interview they would just trail off. As their advocate, this was so frustrating. The right way to end an interview, if you can do it authentically, is to reiterate how interested you are and ASK FOR THE JOB. It was really hard to get these students to say: “It was great talking to you today. Based on what we discussed, I know I have everything it takes to be great at this job. I’m very interested in this opportunity, and hope I am selected to join the team.” I can tell you, as someone who interviews people on a regular basis, that someone who closes an interview like that is much more likely to get the job than someone who slinks out of the room when the interviewer stops asking questions. So what made asking for the job so hard for them? There are a few possibilities. They could certainly be worried about immediate rejection, or they don’t like putting people on the spot. But I tried to put it in perspective for them:
The upside of increasing your odds far outweighs the very unlikely downside of being flat out rejected.It’s very similar when you’re talking about asking current customers for referrals. It’s this easy: “I’ve really enjoyed working with you on this job. Do you know anyone else who might need work like this done?” While it might not roll off your tongue the first couple of times, after you practice something over and over, it just becomes part of the routine. Have a goal of asking two customers for referrals each week, and then ramp up until you’re asking all of them. Then you’ll be raking in the referrals and will be glad you took this step that initially seemed scary! Why are referrals important? Here are a couple of points from a 2011 study that might make it easier to make asking for referrals part of your regular practice:
- They’re more profitable. Those customers that came through referrals from existing customers had higher margins than those that were acquired from other methods. Much of that is due to the quality of the referred customers, who are likely to have an interest in bigger jobs.
- They stay around longer. Customers that came through referrals stayed an average of 18% longer than non-referral customers. This is especially important for field service businesses that have recurring jobs, like cleaning or lawn maintenance.