The Art and Science of “The Ask”

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is ask. Ask for the introduction. Ask for the referral. Ask for the business. It’s especially hard for business people who are scared to death about what the referral source will think. Do they think I’m desperate? Will they consider my request annoying? Will they respect me after I’ve asked?

Constant Contact has published a nifty little booklet, posted in its Learning Center, which attempts to demystify the art of the ask. Their premise is that most customers really are glad to help.

First, the booklet narrows down the types of referrals to three: traditional (does anyone know anyone who can…), testimonials (on your website or in email marketing) and online recommendations and reviews (using LinkedIn, Yelp or Google+).

The booklet then spells out how to ask in person. This is applicable when speaking with a customer who tells you how pleased he or she is with your service. This is where the science comes in. It’s a perfect time to ask. No need to get specific names, just say, “If you know of anyone who could benefit from this type of work, feel free to pass along my name.”

This is also a great time to ask for a testimonial. Do it gently, by trying to understand why the customer chose and likes you. Ask questions such as: Was there any hesitation about buying this product/service? What feature did you like the most? Would you recommend this product/service? If so, why?

There are also places you can ask online: in your email newsletter, on your website (through share buttons), through online webinars and in your regular emails. To make it even more enticing, consider offering a referral program with incentives or a finder’s fee.

And, of course, there is also an art to getting referrals without asking. According to the booklet, this is possible! Find ways to make your customers say WOW. A “wow” gets people talking, and nothing can beat word-of-mouth marketing.

Here’s a final and most important fact about the ask: the more you ask, the more you’ll grow. Even if one or two Scrooges says no (and be sure to find out why), most people WILL say yes. Your business will grow exponentially.

Be brave. Go forth and ask. Then come back and share your success story here.


About Chris Ruys

Chris Ruys is founder and president of Chris Ruys Communications, Inc., a marketing/public relations firm that specializes in high visibility campaigns using both traditional and social media strategies. Her blog, originally called "Getting Social," was launched in October 2010 as a way to share her progress as a "student" of social media. While she's still learning, Ms. Ruys has broadened the scope to include other aspects of marketing communications and PR, including blogging, email, traditional media and advertising in the blog she now calls "Proactive PR."