How to Ask a Client for Referrals (Without Feeling Uncomfortable)
You have that perfect client. They pay you on time. They don’t pester you 24 hours a day. They provide the PBCs (Prepared By Client Documents), on time, and are happy to answer any additional questions you might have. They are respectful of your time and are actually enjoyable to work with. All things CPA firm owners dream of.
Compare your perfect client to one of your other clients who: Micro-manages, demands the work done today but won’t pay you for 45+ days, then fire off a nasty email at 10pm asking: “Why did you classify this expense like this? And my financials were supposed to be ready yesterday…where are they?!?”
Imagine being able to multiply your perfect client so you can finally fire that other client. You will be happier and healthier working more with clients you love than those you don’t. Not to mention the additional free time you will have not worrying about how to please a frustrated and unhappy client.
We won’t go into how-to-fire-a-client now but instead, show you how to multiply the good ones you have.
Now, it’s going to come down to a tough, little 8-letter word. The R-word. REFERRALS! We love getting them, but we don’t love asking for them. It’s hard. There’s a major chance of another R-word…Rejection.
In your eyes, you think, “Well, I do a fantastic job with their books, they should want to refer me.” Here’s a newsflash, people are mostly worried about their own issues and not your virtual accounting practice.
But, they would love to help, they just need to know you are open to the help. Last thing they want is to send their colleague to you only for you to say “No thanks.” Then your client has to patch things up with their colleague who now feels foolish.
Dan Allison runs an agency that focuses solely on capturing more and better referrals. He says “80% of your clients are willing to take the risk and refer you to their friends.” This is based on thousands of surveys and sit-downs and is MUCH higher than most of us expect.
The problem Dan sees is that most business people do not know how to ask a client for referrals as it can be an uncomfortable topic. A startling find is the reason most clients don’t refer is….The Professional Never Asked.
Here’s How To Ask A Client For Referrals (In a way you don’t feel Icky):
1) Identify your Top 5-20 clients
Chances are you know, right off the bat, who are your favorite clients. Open up Excel and begin to list out these top clients who you would like to replicate as many times as possible.
If you have 0 clients, check out our post on 47 tips to generating accounting leads for your business that you can utilize to kickstart your practice.
If you work at a firm (not your own practice), you can still use this tactic and bring on more clients for the firm. Most firms will pay out bonuses for bringing in new business and you’re seen as more valuable. Learning how to ask a client for referrals and implementing these tactics, could be the difference in your next promotion.
2) Set up a time to sit down with these clients.
You can set up a meeting with other work to discuss or you can simply ask to get their feedback.
Here is A Referral Email Script You Can Use:
“Hi <Client Name>,
Looking forward to discussing how last quarter went. At the end of our meeting, would you be able to take an extra 10 minutes so I could get your feedback on how our relationship is going and addressing the good and bad spots?
You want to respect their time and let them know this is coming (Don’t blindside them) but also don’t bring up referrals at this moment.
3) While in the meeting with the client, bring up the reminder to get their feedback.
Chat about struggles they may have, good things they value, what they wish you did more, etc.
After this, Dan has a great script, centered around the correct way in learning how to ask a client for referrals. Here is a script you can implement right away:
“I wanted to get your feedback on something. Our firm really likes to grow through helping our clients and people who are important to them. This can involve our clients referring us or introducing us to people that they know.
As you know, this can be an uncomfortable topic. On one hand, every time I see my clients I could say “Who do you know?” but I avoid doing this because I never want anyone to feel uncomfortable.
On the other hand, if I avoid the topic altogether I may have an entire client base that doesn’t even know whether or not we want to help more people.
How can I approach the topic of referrals with you, if at all, in a way that will be comfortable for you and will not compromise the relationship that we have?”
Notice you are not directly asking for a name. You are simply bringing up how to bring up referrals! Asking for them can be uncomfortable, but once that point is acknowledged, it is much easier to dive into who would be a great referral.
Remember, you want to get this feedback and ask this question to the clients you wish to multiply. Bad clients probably hang out with other people who would (probably) be bad clients.
You can take the feedback you get from the perfect clients and link up similarities. You’ll start to see trends in what your perfect clients: Value, Want, Need etc. Then, when you go out to prospect, you’ll be able to readily identify the prospects who would turn into perfect clients. See, learning how to ask a client for referrals isn’t as bad as you thought..right?
If so, How do YOU approach the topic of referrals with your clients?