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Asking for a referral is not asking for a favor

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When we ask someone for a favor, we often assume that they expect something in return as soon as possible. (While technically, a favor is something provided out of goodwill, the business connotation has evolved into something else.)

To ask for a referral is not to risk a relationship or a friendship, as some authors claim. If we erroneously believe “referrals are a favor/risk,” then we would never ask for referrals. Or we’d ask in such a meaningless way, that we might as well not ask in the first place.

In fact, by assuming the favor/risk position, we undermine the true power of the referral. The diluted favor/risk referral request sounds something like this: “If you know anyone who could benefit from my services, please let them know.” If you’re one of the many salespeople who ask this question, I picture you nodding your head and recalling that nothing happened as a result.

The goodness of referrals. Referrals are positive, powerful and upright. Referrals are built on truth and integrity. It’s time to rewire your referral brain. Think of all the referrals you easily and willingly provide. You tell people about a great restaurant, a terrific movie, a top mechanic and the latest iPad app. We give referrals all the time and they are neither favors nor risks.

Value and trust prevail. Think of people you know well. You like them, trust them and know they’re good people. They ask you for a personal or a business referral, and you want to help as much as possible, so you go out of your way to connect them with others. If you must use the word “favor,” realize that the prospect is the one receiving the favor by being introduced to you.

Yes, you must earn the right to ask. You’ve earned the right with your current clients, but have you asked every single one? They really want to refer you, but you must ask. We often believe that when we’ve done good work for our clients, they automatically refer us. Does that happen? Yes. If you want to build your business, should you rely on it? No.

Deliver value. Ask for a referral anytime during your sales process when you deliver value. How will you know? Most likely your client will thank you and let you know that you gave them a good idea or delivered useful information.

You know you’re good. Show it. Share it. Ask for referrals.

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Joanne Black is a professional sales speaker, sales webinar leader, and author of “No More Cold Calling: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust” from Warner Business Books. Visit (C) Copyright 2011 Joanne S. Black. All rights reserved.