How to Get Referrals and Testimonials
When you learn how to get referrals and testimonials, you’ll enjoy an endless supply of customers and clients, and put your career in the stratosphere!
Every salesperson can build their business faster through testimonials and referrals, but many are afraid to ask for them. True, some customers give them without being asked, but they are few and far between. If you want them, usually you have to ask!
It may seem egotistical, or possibly like begging, but you must force yourself to ask for the testimonials and referrals you need. When you can advertise the fact that 60% of your business comes from referrals, that’s a strong recommendation. And when you can print customer testimonials in your marketing materials or on your web site, they are seen as proof of your customer care and your expertise.
How to get referrals and testimonials: Step 1
So where to begin? The first rule is to keep plenty of business cards in your pocket, and use them well. Try to hand out at least 10 every day. Make sure they include a good photo of you. Not everyone is good at remembering names, but almost all of us can look at a face and react with a feeling – positive or negative. (Be sure when they look at yours, the feeling is positive!)
Now, let’s start with referrals.
First source: Your own customers and clients.
At the conclusion of your business, your customers should be in a happy frame of mind and anxious to help you out. So ask at closing.
Ask correctly: Instead of “Do you know anyone else who might need my services?” say something along the lines of “Is there anyone where you work who is considering a move soon?” or “Do you have any family members who are ready for a change of scenery – or anyone moving here to be near you and your family?”
When you say “anybody” it doesn’t evoke mind pictures. When you name groups of people, you help your customers visualize people in those situations. You can use family, close friends, work acquaintances, club members, classmates, etc.
Remember that you’re offering assistance…
Our inborn aversion to feeling like we’re begging is the reason we wrote this article about how to get referrals and testimonials.
So keep in mind that you’re offering assistance, and speak accordingly. Rather than come across as saying “I need more customers” you can say something like “I’ve enjoyed helping you. Since I like to have fun working and any friends of yours would have to be nice people too – do any of them need the assistance of a REALTOR®?”
Another good way to jog people’s thoughts is to ask for a specific kind of customer. For instance, you could ask if they know anyone else who is thinking of moving to larger (or smaller) home. Or, you could ask if they know anyone who is considering buying a first home, or a lake home, or moving to a condo. By being specific, you help people picture the people they know.
Then, continue to follow up with all your happy clients and customers – and remember to ask them each time you talk with them. You have to do two things: One is to maintain “top of mind awareness” with them, and the other is to make sure they know you want their referrals.
Never assume they know you’d appreciate referrals…
I’ve heard people say that they didn’t realize they should send their friends to someone who had helped them. They just assumed that person was busy. It sounds silly, but some customers actually consider themselves a bother to the people who earn a living by helping them.
If you maintain contact through postcards, newsletters, or e-mail – always ask if they know someone at work, in the neighborhood, etc. who could use your help.
You don’t have to position yourself as needy. You are offering a service and if you’ve treated each customer and client well, they’ll be proud to pass that good service on to people they like. Just let them know that you’ll enjoy working with any friend of theirs.
About your sphere of influence: Many people who have not done business with you will refer others to you, if you ask. That group could include family members, friends, people you know from adult education classes, social clubs, and even the people you hire to clean the pool or service your car. These same people will refer themselves to you when they need your services, but in the meantime will send others. If you ask.
If you’ve been pleasant to them and have talked about your business as if you like what you do for a living, they’ll think of you when someone talks about real estate. But remember to tell them that you’ll appreciate it when they send you customers. And of course, if they send you a referral that turns into a closing, remember to thank them.
The Chamber of Commerce. Join, go to meetings. Offer some assistance in the form of a free brochure or act as a speaker for one of the meetings. Network with other business people. You might even be able to set up a “lead sharing” system with businesses that compliment your own.
Always remember to exchange business cards with everyone you meet. Then, in the coming days, write each one a note letting them know you were glad to meet them, and offering your services. Ask more about what they do, and offer to refer to them.
If Chamber membership is too steep for your budget, choose businesses that serve the same clients you serve, and get acquainted with the owners by sending this set of 3 free Get Acquainted letters.
Neighborhood meetings. If you’ve chosen a specific area and have become the expert in that area, go to neighborhood meetings and let people know. Tell them how much you appreciate the area and the people in it. Then hand out your cards and gather theirs. If you have a free report to offer, tell them you’ll send it.
Specialty shops. If you’re an avid boater and love to sell waterfront property, let the folks at the local marina know you exist and that waterfront is your specialty. Talk to the managers and the people working there. Give them your card plus a couple of extras to hand out and tell them that you’ll appreciate referrals. And talk about your business enough so they know you really are a specialist and know the area.
Wherever you go, get acquainted and make sure the manager and other people working there all know who you are and what you do. Give each of them some of your cards. Some stores have bulletin boards. Ask if you can put up a flyer.
Buyers who have contacted you, but who haven’t purchased yet. You are, of course, staying in touch with them weekly. (You are, aren’t you?) You don’t have to ask for a referral each time, but do ask. And do keep sending them valuable information, such as the letters in our Nurturing Buyer Leads set.
An e-mail “must do”
Be sure that every e-mail you send out has your “signature” at the bottom, along with your contact information. Leave it there and send it with all of your personal mail, too.
I read an article that said there’s no better way to get your name circulating than to leave your contact information on jokes – because jokes circulate the fastest of anything in cyberspace. A word of caution there – make sure it’s a clean and non-political joke. Don’t wreck your reputation by attaching your name to something in poor taste or something that will alienate half the population.
Your signature should include your name, the name of the company you work for, your phone number, your e-mail address, your location, and some kind of tag line.
Get maximum value from your business cards:
The 2 rules
- Give them to everyone
- Include your photo
You may be tempted to not hand them out to people who know you. That’s a mistake. Even people you know fairly well may not have your phone number memorized, so when they want to refer someone to you, will have a tough time. Even people who know your number may not have a piece of paper handy to write it down for someone.
Give them your card often (because they get lost or tossed) and ask them to give it to anyone they know who could use your services. Your card makes it easy, and easy gets done more often than difficult.
Think about yourself. Say you want to refer a customer to your friend Linda Jones. You know her from your book club, but you’ve never met her husband. You start to tell someone to call her and then think: “She sells real estate for – who was that? Gee, I think she switched agencies last year. I think she was at the Whitmore Agency, but where is she now? We could look her up in the phone book. Boy! There sure are a lot of Joneses. What was her husband’s name? There are three Lindas in here – if I knew his name too…”
And about that time you change your mind about making the referral. Give people plenty of cards so they don’t have to go through that scenario – and you don’t have to miss a good lead.
Including your photo is not being vain, it’s good business. Some of the people you know marginally – people such as the checker in the grocery store or the clerk at the dry cleaners – know your face, but may very well have forgotten your name, if they ever knew it.
Once you have the name…
Once someone gives you the name of a friend to call, be sure to ask if you can use their name. When you approach someone with “Joe Smith gave me your number and suggested I call you…” you’ll have better results than if you call out of the blue.
Some sales people even ask the referring person to call first and tell their friends to expect a call. That sounds a little pushy, but if you say “Will you be talking to Sally in the next couple of days?” you can then add “If so, will you please tell her I’m going to call?” Most people will say sure and offer to say something nice about you.
Now let’s go after those testimonials…
There are 3 good ways to get them…
1) When I was a real estate broker I made it a practice to send a follow-up letter to both sides of every transaction within a week of closing. Our secretary took care of mailing the letters, so my agents also followed this practice. The letter was different when it went to another agent’s client, but it still went out.
The purpose of the letter was feedback – good or bad. Since we worked hard to make sure our customers and clients were happy, the feedback was usually good, but not always.
Your feedback letter should be brief. Explain that you appreciated their business and that you are always striving to improve customer service and would appreciate their help in doing so. Then ask short, simple questions. I asked:
- Was there anything you particularly liked or appreciated about our service?
- Was there anything we could have done differently that would make it better?
- Was there anything additional we could have done to make it better?
We asked people to answer the questions and mail the letter back in the enclosed envelope. The answers were both serious and silly. Some folks said we could have paid for the house for them. Some said we could have furnished all their meals while they were in town. Once one of my agents got: “You could have married me.”
I always enjoyed the silly comments because they showed that we had been having a good time with those customers.
The letter to other people’s customers and clients was along the same lines, but we named their agent said we appreciated them having allowed their agent to cooperate with us on the transaction. Then we asked the same questions.
The feedback to item #1, along with notes people wrote at the bottom, was used for testimonials. Some people don’t say much, but others will go into detail with what they liked about your service. Those are the good testimonials!
Since it is your letter, you can make a copy and put it in your listing presentation book. But before you post it on your web site or print it in your marketing materials, be sure to call the person. Tell them how much you appreciated their comments and ask if you can use them. Most people will be happy to help out. Keep in mind that the most believable testimonials include both the person’s name and the city where they live.
Also, in spite of the temptation, never alter their words. If their grammar is a bit funky, it’s how they talk. Leave it alone. You can, however, eliminate part of the words. If a happy customer writes a whole page praising you, you can use a sentence or two and omit the rest. Or, you can use different portions of the letter in different places – such as in your brochure, in a prospecting letter, or on different pages in your web site.
A note here about negative feedback. Be glad when you get it. Pay attention to it and use it to make needed improvements in service. It also gives you an excuse to talk to the person and perhaps turn them from an enemy back into a friend. Call (or write, if you can’t summon the courage to call) and tell them you appreciate them taking the time to let you know, so you can improve your service. Then explain that you will use their comments and take steps to make sure the same thing never happens again.
Something I read years ago and have followed, although I don’t know if it matters: Use a fancy stamp on the return envelope. The article I read said that people are less likely to throw away an envelope with some kind of big commemorative stamp than one with a standard stamp. Somehow, the size and design of the stamp makes them feel like they need to use it – so they return your feedback form.
Today, many agents ask for and get comments and feedback on line. If your agency offers that, do send your happy clients a link and ask them to contribute.
2) E-mail follow up. Shortly after the transaction is final, e-mail the people on a friendly note. Tell them you hope they’re enjoying their new home and ask if everything is going smoothly. Be sure to ask a question that they will feel compelled to answer.
Then, when they say something nice, write back and thank them for their kind thoughts and ask if you can use them in your marketing materials.
3) Come right out and ask. Tell your customers that you are putting together some marketing materials or updating your web page, and you could use their help. Ask if they have any comments that you could use on your testimonials page.
A copywriting client of mine did this recently and the response was wonderful. She sent out an email to about 20 past clients and almost all of them wrote back singing her praises – and giving specific instances of how she helped them. Those specific statements are the best.
Just look at the difference between these two testimonials:
- “The seminar was very enjoyable and well done.”
- “I really enjoyed listening to Herschel Gordon Lewis. His tips on when to use numerals and when to write out numbers really made me stop and think about the differences between my target prospects. I know the effectiveness of my copy will benefit from this seminar.”
Continual follow-up is the key.
The method you use matters less than your commitment to use some method. When you follow up religiously and stay in touch with people, they’ll remember you and will refer others to you. When you don’t, they won’t.
I have heard people say things like: “You know I worked with a really great agent when we sold our home in Portland. Now my brother is moving back there and I wish I could remember that guy’s name. I know he’d do a good job for Jack.” If “that guy” had stayed in touch, he’d have had a new customer.
I know that mailing costs are getting out of hand and you may hesitate to keep someone on your mailing list when they’ve moved 1,000 miles away. You’ll have to make the decision to keep them or delete them, but I recommend that you keep them. Of course, if you’re diligent about keeping your e-mail address book up to date, you can eliminate much of the cost. Many of your clients will appreciate hearing from you electronically and you’ll save bucks.
You may decide to keep 2 or 3 different follow-up lists. One for people who have moved far away, one for your current list, and one for prospecting. Reach out to each at different intervals, with different messages.
The main thing is, send something that people will enjoy and look forward to – and something they’ll be glad to forward on to friends. Then be sure your contact information is easy to see. My event-themed keeping in touch letters offer a light-hearted way to get contacts looking forward to your next message.
Use e-mail drip marketing with current prospects. Once you’ve gotten the referrals – or a new prospect from any other source – follow up with a drip marketing campaign. Send an email every few days, just to remind them that you’re there and ready to give service.
If you don’t like to write your own letters, choose from the more than 40 prospecting letter sets I offer at CopybyMarte.com.
Once you know how to get referrals and testimonials without feeling that you’re begging, your business WILL grow.
I wish you great success!
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