REFERRALS are an extension of networking. If people like you and your product or service, there is a good chance they will tell others about you.

If they already use your product or service and are totally satisfied, there is also a good chance that they will recommend you to others.

However, this does not always happen. People will not necessarily go around singing your praises to other people, unless someone asks them about you.

But you can take various actions to improve your chances of getting referrals. Here are a few methods to use:

* Ask people

Ask your existing customers if there is anyone else they know who could use your product or service. Ask if it is okay to contact these potential customers and use the referee’s name.

Ask if it is okay to check back and find out what the new contact said about you. This encourages your existing customer to refer you.

* Offer incentives

Offer a free product, a discount or a prize to an existing customer who refers you to a new customer. For example, if I bring a new member to my health club, my name is entered into a lucky draw for a new car.

Offer a “finders fee” to anyone who finds you new business or donate some money to their favourite charities.

* Have a referral form

This needs to be a simple document that you can hand out to customers, give away at events or mail out to people.

It should read: “Who do you know who could use our product or service?” Then, leave a few blanks on the form for the details. Mention the incentive or reward they receive for filling out the form.

* Ask for letters of recommendation

Always ask existing customers for some comments you can use on sales letters, your website or brochure.

* Listen for potential referrals

Keep your ears open for referrals. Often a customer will make a throwaway remark like: “My brother-in-law suffers from the same problems in his business as I do.”

You then ask politely about the brother-in-law’s business and if it would be okay to contact him. This seems so simple, but many people do not pick up these remarks or do anything about them.

* Thank people who help you

When new customers contact you, ask them how they heard about you. You should always do this so that you can evaluate your advertising or promotional activity. If they tell you that they have been referred by someone else, send a thank you note to that person. This encourages them to refer more people to you.

* Refer business to them

It is the old “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” story. Tell people about businesses you would recommend. If you think they will do something about it, phone your contact of the business you recommended. Tell them: “Watch out for so and so who is going to call or come and see you.” Pass on any details you have, and hopefully, they will do the same for you one day.