Existing customers are cutting costs. Leads are few and far between. Sales cycles and deal closings are taking twice as long. Take note: good old referrals can keep your business afloat and even help it grow during tough times. But how do you successfully query a potential referral without seeming pushy or worse yet, outright aggressive, particularly online? By following these 5 simple rules:
Tweak your pitch
Making a referral request personal is even more important on email than in person. Why? In person, you can use body language and a person’s responses to guide the conversation appropriately. In an email, the conversation starts out one-sided, so you need to do your research and tailor your message before you press "Send." Be specific and focus on the benefits your relationship can bring to both of you--why it’s "win-win."
Offer your services first
It’s always better to give than to receive, particularly in the arena of networking and referrals. If possible, make a genuine offer to help and follow through on that offer. Chances are, a referral will come naturally and won’t feel like a favor. Over time, you’ll see a real relationship develop. Online, this tactic will prevent your message from seeming like spam--unwanted.
Use the web wisely
Just because you can ask for a referral in 100 different ways on the web doesn’t mean you should. Practice the same common courtesy you would in person. You probably wouldn’t go up to someone you’d never met at a networking event and immediately ask for a referral, so don’t do that on LinkedIn or Twitter. Make the connection, nurture it, then ask.
Do it privately if possible
You don’t want anyone to feel put on the spot by receiving a public request for help. And you certainly don’t want to be rejected in public. So send a private email, or a Direct Message on Twitter instead of sending a mass email or simply posting on Facebook or Twitter.
Thank them on and offline
Sure, an email or LinkedIn message is a great way to give a quick thanks or check in from time to time. But if a referral pans out and really helps you, nothing says "I appreciate your help" like a hand-written note or small gift.