For many salespeople, the most difficult part of the referral process is how to go from the actual sale into asking for referrals without coming across as nervous, abrupt, anxious or even desperate. Enter the “Referral Bridge.”
What is a bridge? Well, in the physical world, it’s simply a structure that transports a person from one safe piece of land to another. In this case, however, the Bridge is a phrase that will transport you from the safety of the sale and relationship you’ve built into the actual asking for referrals. This, without any feelings of discomfort, either by you or your potential referral source.
The “Bridge Phrase” I suggest using is:
“Anne, I’m in the process of expanding my referral business, and I find it’s helpful to partner with my clients and friends such as you. Could we take a few quick minutes to run past the names of some people I might also be able to help?”
Every aspect of this Bridge Phrase has a specific purpose.
#1 States Your Intent. It lets your referrals source know exactly what you’re looking to accomplish, and does so with polite posture.
#2 Gives Them “Buy-in.” It then includes this person in your mission by making them your “partner.” And, people who know, like and trust you, and desire to help you, want to feel some ownership in your success. Thus, “partner” is a very accurate and positive word.
#3 Assures Them This Won’t Take Up Too Much Time. By saying “A ‘few’ ‘quick’ ‘minutes’ to ‘run past’…” (note all the words in that phrase that imply quickness) you let your referral source know that you’re not going to take a lot of their time.
#4 Provides Security That They Have Nothing to Fear. And, by saying, “might” (i.e., “might also be able to help”) you’ve used a word that will relax them because it shows you don’t assume everyone will be interested. Thus, they won’t have to worry that you’ll ever come across to someone they refer you to in a way that is high-pressure or in any way less than totally appropriate.
Of course, depending upon your product, service, unique situation, and personal style, you’ll use some different words than above. But, use the basic principle and you’ll realize great success in terms of obtaining their agreement to provide referrals.
Now you can begin the actual process of asking, as discussed in this series of brief videos, that will draw out a potential gushing fountain of quality names.
Of course, the “Bridge Phrase” is not only for use when asking for referrals from someone with whom you’re already doing business. It can be utilized when speaking with anyone with whom you have a sufficient “know, like and trust” relationship, even if that person isn’t personally a prospect for your product.
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You are a goldmine! Things, as you lay them out, make sense and are easy to use. Thank you so much!
Excellent advice. This is such a critical piece to success and yet it seems as though so few take the time to develop a strong strategy and practice it enough to make it natural. Very important!
Dale: I appreciate your saying that. Thank you!
Nadia, thank you. What a terrific compliment. I appreciate that a LOT!
This is the bridge that will lead me to my pot of gold. Mike
Totally and enthusiastically agree with Nadia! This bridge is, in my opinion, one of the most valuable of all the lessons in “Endless Referrals” for all the reasons you mention. The wording is perfect and, although I’ve tried coming up with some “different words” as you mention, mine fall short. No need to re-invent a perfect wheel. Thanks for another great lesson.
Great post from the “Referral King”! The Bridge statement was brilliant, indeed. I love the comparison of adding “polite posture”. By far the best part of the statement is making the other person feel at ease, not pressured and willing to help. You already know…I am going to snag this phrase. Keep up the super work.
Mike: Thank you! 🙂
Linda: Thank you, I appreciate that!
Chi Chi: LOL Thank you, my friend. Snag away!
Thanks for that Bob, so beautifully put. I too will snag that one – it’s a process I keep forgetting to do, so must put that into whole business process.
Lynden: Thank you. So glad you found it to be of value!
Far too often this process is the one that gets left to the side, and it shouldn’t! How else can we effectively grow our business without asking for the help of friends, family, and past clients. They are the best form of free marketing around! Thanks for the reminder Bob! I too might “borrow” your words! The founder of the real estate company company I affiliate with (Allen Tate Company) built a very successful model using this phrase each time he met someone new or came across a family member, friend, or past client: “I can’t help but believe you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell some real estate.” -Allen Tate. He asked, and it worked!
Tom: so glad you enjoyed the article and thank you for your nice note on Twitter.
I’ve recently taken on a sales role for a clients’ campaign reaching out to unconverted trialists. Referral resources are a part of each contact. I can use some of this wording to fit this particular campaign as well.
Wording is so important to put another at ease. You must also believe the words you are delivering.
Thank you, Angela. Yes, the belief is vital. When I write these articles and share these methodologies, it’s always based on the premise that the product or service is excellent and that the salesperson is honest and genuine. Without that foundation, not only does none of it matter but, worse than that, it can be used for very counter-productive purposes.
Bob, great tip — being someone that is a small business owner, but not necessarily a sales person, I really appreciate the simplicity of this approach. Thanks a million!
John: Thank you so much! I have to opine, though; if you are a small business owner, then on one level or another…you are sales person, as well. 🙂 Make it a great day!
Many thanks Bob…I appreciate the clarity you bring!
Fantastic strategic tip Bob! As usual you’ve found something simple and actionable to share. I will certainly be sharing this excellent content with my connnections!
Larry, I greatly appreciate that. Thank you. What a nice compliment!
Hey there, Bob! WRT small businessman = salesman … I know! And I hate it! 🙂 Thanks again!
Great article! We teach people how they can work from home using their secretarial, admin and techie skills.
This is one of the main ways we promote for them to expand their business is this.
Thanks for the great information.
John, thank you for your kind words. Very appreciated!
Rich, thank you. Very kind!
John, please watch this three minute video. It might change your thoughts about being a salesman…once you know what selling *really* is. Thank you.
I forget to ask for referrals…this is a beautiful way to ask. Thank you Bob.
Thank you, Amy. Actually, the Bridge Phrase “leads into” the actual asking. The link near the end of the article will take you to a series of brief videos that will help you to ask in a way that is extremely comfortable and effective. Best of success, my friend!
Thank you for putting this back out over twitter! I almost missed it. It will be a part of my conference call with our company’s consultants this Wednesday!
Awesome, Steve. I’m honored, my friend!
Fantastic stuff Bob! What I have been realizing as I have been reading and listening to you is that it is important to communicate properly and with clarity. I’m headed over to watch those videos!
Russ, thank you. What a great compliment to me that that is the message you take away from the articles and such. Much appreciated!
Hello Bob. I am looking to expand my referral business and I googled “referral and words to use” and I got a plethora of places trying to sell me on their way. I stumbled on you and WOW, what a great way to ask. I am going to use a process of writing a letter to my best clients and ask them to think about some referrals they would tell me about and then I will call them the following week.
Your word suggestions are the inspiration I needed.
Hi Andrew, thank you. Glad you enjoyed the article. A couple of quick thoughts, if I may: 1. Make sure that before you ask your clients, you have a “know, like and trust” relationship with them. If you’re asking cold, that might be the response you receive. 🙂 Of course, you said your “best clients” so I’m assuming you already do have that part covered. 2. Consider calling them and utilizing the Bridge Phrase rather than sending a letter. I think you’ll find the results to be a bit better. You can always say the phrase and invite yourself to visit with them; let them know that you’ll bring the bagels (or donuts) 🙂 and perhaps you can share a cup of coffee and run past some names. Or, depending upon the person and relationship you have, you can meet for a cup of coffee at a specific location. One more thought; perhaps test both ways. If the letter works, great. What we find though, is that verbally tends to be more effectively, assuming the “know, like, trust” relationship is there.