Proactively trigger word-of-mouth recommendations

16th April 2013

Everyone loves recommendations. After all, when they’re good, everyone benefits.

For example, when you move house and want to know a good restaurant, you ask people you trust to recommend one. You benefit (a nice meal), the restaurant benefits (they get your business) and the referrer benefits (both you and the restaurant are grateful).

Similarly, there are lots of people out there who want to be recommended to people like you. It could be customers looking for good suppliers; recruiters seeking good applicants; leaders wanting someone to run an important project for them. And what will they do? They’ll ask people they trust to recommend someone.

So, how can you make sure people recommend you?

Well, one thing that isn’t enough on its own is to do a good job. Unless you’re lucky, the beneficiaries of your good work won’t think to recommend you. That’s because they don’t look at you in that way. So if I do a great job at a conference, the organiser doesn’t think “who can I recommend Andy to?” They think “thank goodness, my conference went well”.

So, as well as doing great work, you also have to ask for recommendations. Here are a couple of techniques that work very well…

Following a successful project/contract/job, say to the person who hired you:

  1. Are you happy with the outcome of the project? [They say “yes”. If they don’t, rectify it, then ask again until they’re happy]
  2. What do you think was the best impact of our work together? [They say what they perceive to be your most valuable contribution]
  3. Who do you know who would also want to achieve this impact? [Hopefully, they identify someone they can refer you to. If they can’t think of somebody, have a couple of pre-prepared names to suggest]
  4. Would you mind emailing them – copying me in – describing the impact of my work, and saying that you advised me to contact them?

You can see why this approach works. It focuses on the value you’ve already brought someone, and the value you can bring to someone else. At no point are you saying “please can you recommend me?”, which satisfies your agenda only.

You can tailor this approach to other situations. So, when speaking to customers who have recently started buying from you:

  1. Are you happy with the service you get now, compared to where you went previously?
  2. What do you think is the best thing we offer, compared to your previous supplier?
  3. Who do you know who…?
  4. Would you mind emailing her and saying…?

I recently ran a session where a group wanted to learn how to trigger more word-of-mouth. I showed them this script, and then gave them 20 minutes to call their contacts and use it on them. When they returned, the group had over 30 promises of recommendations!

The only skills they used? They knew who to ask, and what to ask.

And – most importantly – they did ask.

Action Point

The steps are:

  1. Identify who you would like a recommendation into
  2. Identify someone who can recommend you to them
  3. Prepare how you’ll ask for the recommendation (use the above script, or one of your own)
  4. Ask them

If you use the right script, this approach can’t do any harm.

Even better, it could do a whole lot of good… for all three parties.

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