Do you ask a new prospect for referrals on the first appointment? Do you wait until the second appointment? Do you wait a year into the relationship? The answer is, “It depends.” There are at least two things to consider in determining when to ask for referrals. First, value must be provided to the prospect/client and value must be recognized by the prospect/client. Second, you must consider the personality of the referral-giving candidate.
Not too long ago, I had an insurance agent set up an appointment with me. As we were about to hang-up, he mentioned that he built his practice from referrals and that at the end of our first meeting he would be asking me for referrals, “So perhaps you could be thinking of some folks between now and our appointment,” he said. Was I ready for this aggressive approach? No! This is “old style” referral gathering, and it creates more bad will than good referrals. In scenarios like this, I might give the person a referral or two, but I wouldn’t put very much thought into it.
For a good referral, value must be given and value must be recognized.
Sometimes it’s easy to know this has occurred, because your prospects or clients will tell you. They’ll say things like “This has been a very helpful meeting” or “I’m glad I finally started working with you on this” or “I should have done this 20 years ago.” That’s it! Value recognized. Now it’s time to ask for referrals — but not before.
At this point, all you have to say is, “That’s great. I’m glad you’re pleased and I’m glad you’re seeing the value of the work we’re doing. I was wondering if we could brainstorm for a few minutes to see if we can identify who else we can bring this valuable process to. Can we try this for a minute?” Notice I made this a WE process and not a ME process. Next, go about the business of brainstorming (collaborating) of who you can serve together. (I’ll share more on this brainstorming concept in future columns.)
See also: 7 Strategies for Referral Success
Can you provide referral-giving value on the first appointment with a prospect? Absolutely! In fact, I hope you do that on a regular basis. Don’t be there just to sell. Be there to educate, ask good questions and find out what their needs, values and concerns are. You’ll earn their trust as you learn their story. Then it will be time to tell your story, and move on toward the sale.