Okay, so that was not exactly what the sticker said on the outside of the handwritten note (not a thank you, btw) we received from what I’ll just call a “grey collar” worker we have in our lives right now, but it might as well have.
What it actually said was, “Oh, by the way, I’m never too busy for your referrals.” And, yes, it was printed on a black and gold very old-school-looking sticker almost exactly like the one below and it was stuck on the back of the envelope.
My first question is simply where does one get the chutzpah?! The reality is this person has done absolutely nothing yet to prove that he’s good at his profession, let alone deserving of some of our social capital in the form of a referral to a close friend or valued business contact. Have you ever been on the receiving end of such a thing? But wait, it gets better. At the bottom of this person’s emails, you can also find the phrase, “Business is good, but I’m never too busy to serve a referral from you.” Everyone that receives an email from this guy sees that? Where are they teaching this stuff?! I’m afraid to think about how many other people in his industry see that and then cut and paste that sentence to add it to their own email signature. Shame on all of them.
Plenty has been written about classier and more effective ways to ask for a referral (google it), so I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but I did want to offer one of the best ways I’ve found to ask for a referral:
AFTER I’ve delivered or completed a job well done or did a temperature check with a client to which they responded positively, I ask if they personally know of anyone else that might benefit from what I’m doing or have done for them.
You can also ask if, by any chance, they have recently mentioned you or your company to anyone in a positive way (this tactic is noted in this intelligent post). I’ve found that people often do this, but don’t always have the time or even remember to provide an introduction or contact info to the party in need. And there are also cases where they don’t tell you when they’ve paid it forward on your behalf (kind of the point of paying it forward). Whatever the case, sometimes they respond with a, “As a matter of fact, I was just telling Barb over at TON Productions what a great job you are doing for us when I sat next to her at the Ad Club lunch last week. She asked me if I knew any biz dev pros well worth their fee.”
Then, if you know the contact, or even you if you don’t, ask your client if he’d mind if you followed up with Barb and mentioned that he shared that he gave you a glowing review. I’ve never received an objection to that request, and, btw, if I’ve landed business because of a client’s good word of mouth on my behalf, there’s usually a handwritten thank you note along with a nice gift card sent priority mail to them stat.
Bottom line: I believe it is never appropriate to ask a client for referrals until you’ve proven your value to them, and you’ve confirmed that they’re happy. If you’ve had any examples of this not being the case, please share them with us because if someone is advocating this as a tactic, I want some real proof that it is effective. Although, I guess it is possible that this guy has just gone rogue, but I doubt it because it wasn’t too hard to find that lame sticker online. Sigh.
P.S. If you like this type of business development advice, you’ll love my book – I’m at a Networking Event–Now What???: A Guide to Getting the Most Out of Any Networking Event. Just sayin’…
P.P.S. I recently found out that, Arden Clise, a Seattle-based etiquette coach and connection of mine wrote a post similar to this one which is worth a read.