How to Earn Customer Referrals

The best sales person is a happy customer; it sounds trite, but a happy customer is much more believable than your best sales pitch. If only you had more of them.

Now let’s be clear about a few things. Just because a customer says that they are happy does not mean that they will buy from you next time. The sad truth is that satisfied customers change providers all the time. Maybe it will be because of price or a lack of attention by the sales rep or some new feature offered by a competitor.

Customers who refer your firm to someone else seldom change providers. If you can only ask your customer one question to determine his or her level of satisfaction with your product or service, you need to ask, “Have you recommended our company to a friend?” It is one thing to say that you will refer someone and another thing to actually do it. Real advocates are people who actually recommend your firm to their friends. They are not people who just talk about it.

Creating this type of customer loyalty is hard work, but it can be done. Here are a few tips:

– Always say thank you. I recommend personal note cards as a follow up to every order or after a meeting. This personal touch is almost lost as a business practice; do this and you will be noticed, if not admired.
– Always ask for feedback on the buying experience. Do this in-person and by survey. Make your firm easy to do business with; eliminate inefficiencies and problems today.
– Consider a service or product guarantee. This will take the anxiety out of the purchase. In practice, they are seldom exercised, but when they are you being told that you have big problems to fix.
– Measure everything. Monitor all your customer facing processes. Catch problems before they fester.
– Try to anticipate customer needs. Call them first and remind them if they are low on stock. Let them know of product changes or improvements.
– Hold quality meetings with your staff. I bet they know where things could be improved; sometimes, you just need to ask them. Let them know it is OK to give you negative feedback. Create incentives to improve your products and processes.
– Welcome customer complaints. A customer who complains is giving you a second chance to make things right. If you can fix things, you could end up with a customer for life.
– Offer incentives to customers who refer you to other customers. Reinforce this great behavior. It won’t take much either; it might cost you a lunch or tickets to the theater. It is worth it.
– Never over commit. If you cannot meet a customer’s expectations, don’t take the order. The downside risk too great.
– On the flipside, always exceed expectations. Deliver sooner or better or more than quoted. Be excellent!

Finally, whenever a customer compliments you on a job well done, say thanks and ask for a referral. If they cannot think of anyone, it means that you have more work to do.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.
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