Just Ask!

People, and especially business owners, have trouble asking for help. Not in a personal sense, like carpooling kids, moving, or borrowing tools from the neighbor, but in a professional sense. Even more surprising, business owners often are most hesitant to ask for help from those who would most likely WANT to help them; they have trouble asking for referrals from their happiest clients and customers.

I recently facilitated a sales training for a restaurant group in town. The event coordinators were telling me about the rave reviews they receive, from flowery emails to hand-written thank you notes. “What do you do with them?” I asked. They answered that notes were proudly shared with the servers and staff. “Yes, but what do you DO with them?” I asked again. They didn’t have an answer. There was no follow-up plan to reach out, reconnect and invite back those people who had the best experiences. Taking it a step further, there was no process for inviting those people to invite their friends. . . . there was no referral plan in place.

I work with an HVAC company that does excellent work. Their customers love them because they show up on time, they do great work, and their pricing is fair. They have customers who would happily tell their friends and neighbors about them, and probably do so on their own, but there is no process in place to make it EASY for those customers to tell their friends and neighbors.

We want others to like what we like. We, as humans, are predisposed to form groups. Allen Hilton, the author of A House United, points out the anthropological roots of our group-forming; safety in numbers. Back in the caveman days, if Og and Grog banded together, Og could guard the food and Grog could go out and find more. As Simon Sinek points out in his book, Start with Why, our affinity for affinity is the reason that fan clubs are started. . . . not by the artist, group or movie studio, but by regular people. We seek out and form groups with those who like what we like. Think of the last great show you binged on Netflix. Did you keep it to yourself, or did you tell everyone you know about this new show that they HAVE to watch?

But what can you, as a business owner, do to speed that process up? How do you build that affinity group faster? How could you make it easier for your most loyal customers and clients to tell others about you? How can you help people spread the gospel of your brand to others? It may just be as easy as asking. Invite them to invite their friends. Respond to that hand-written thank-you note with a hand-written note back, but include two free drinks and an invitation to bring a friend who has never dined there next time. After installing a new furnace, give that happy customer a card to give to their neighbor for 10% their first service (and 10% off the current customer’s next service as well). Systematize it. Make it into a process. Train your team to recognize those happy customers and influencers and invite them to share their experiences with friends.

Your best salespeople are your most loyal and most satisfied customers. You have the opportunity to form an army, to get your biggest fans to “evangelize” on your behalf. You just need to ask.

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