How to ask for customer references

By March 17, 2017Sales
client reference

How do you ask for a customer reference? What channels do you use and what do you say?

We have some ideas.

Depending on the relationship, timing, nature of your business and how frequently you communicate with the indviduals, clients or customers you want to ask, you do need to think about which channel you use to ask them.

Choices are: 

– In person – By phone –  Via email – With an online survey  – Social media – Using a third party platform  – Outsourcing to advocacy specialists (we would reserve this for specific occasions)

We wouldn’t recommend outsourcing it at this stage, or using a third party platform or advocacy software. Start with the human approach and owning your references.

If you haven’t been in contact with someone – whether it’s a customer or another type of contact – I prefer not to ask out of the blue and to at least have a gentler way of asking than ‘will you give me a reference?’ – though at the heart of asking, is the ability to ask.

Not sure what to say, whether by email or phone? Then here are some approaches that may inspire you.

Note: You should always ask permission before you use any reference – don’t share comments that may have been shared with you privately, or name customers or clients without their explicit approval.

Note: Before you ask, get specific and think about what you want the reference to say – a specific project, skills, expertise, results, service, skills or expertise you would like highlighted in the reference.  Then mention that in your request – otherwise you may get a reference that says “Joe did a great job” but you won’t get one that says “Joe worked with us on our sales strategy, worked with our sales team to create new processes and increased our sales by 25 percent within a quarter.”

Let them know how appreciative you are of:

The opportunity to have worked with them. This is best when it’s not in a vacuum. For example, if you haven’t spoken or been in contact with a customer for several months, even years, and then ask them out of the blue to recommend you, it may not be the best timing.

Their opinion and experience in their market.

The credibility that they have within the industry.

The potential reference itself. Let them know that.

It also really helps to share an example, some ideas or a previous recommendation. Offer to help write it – to interview them or send them questions – you don’t want to lead them but you want to make the process as easy as possible for them.

How to get started? Draft an outline of what you could say to a potential reference. Get more tips by downloading our ‘Stop Reference Resistance’ worksheet. 


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