For a long time, I would avoid the awkwardness of asking a client for a referral. Part of it had to do with me not wanting to deal with rejection. “What if they say NO?”, or “What if me asking them for a favor makes them feel uncomfortable?”
Yes, asking for someone to give up the personal contact information, or worse, to go talk to that person for you is terrifying. This is a big indicator that you may not believe in the value of what you're doing and that’s certainly something you need to go and work on first. Knowing and believing that what you’ve chosen as a career in this world provides value to other peoples lives is critical to your overall happiness anyway. But it’s also possible that you can clearly see how much your training services mean to your clients and you just don’t have a strategy to get more clients like them onto your schedule.
This is why you need a formal referral system built into your business model.
I don’t need to sell you on the value of a client referral versus a cold lead. They don’t cost anything but your time and effort (less than you’d think if you have a system in place), they come pre-qualified, likely are in the same tax bracket as your other upscale clients, and are well-educated and understand the value of taking care of their health. If you don’t have a system in place right now to attract these types of clients, you’re missing a critical piece of business that is self-perpetuating.
So here’s how you create this system.
First, make referrals a “condition of doing business” with you. Most likely, if you’re training an affluent demographic, they understand the importance of networking and utilizing their personal contacts to do business. Make sure they know you mainly rely on referrals and because of that you don’t need to spend money (or as much for that matter) on marketing and that means you have more to invest in improving your client’s services on a regular basis. Smart business people know the importance of reinvesting in their business to make their services and products better. They should understand this concept clearly.
One strategy I use in my referral system is this:
As soon as I do my initial assessment and the client signs up with me, I say to them “Ok Joan, as I’m focused on working hard for you and you’re relying on me to help guide you through this journey, can I rely on you to help me continue to build my business by sending me your friends and family to work with after we achieve our goal?” Of course, they will say yes. I’ve never had anyone say no to this, and you likely won’t either. Now, this does two things. First, it puts the pressure on you to get them the result they want! And two, you let them know in advance you’re going to be asking them for a referral in the future. This cuts the tension like a knife and you don’t make them feel awkward because you’re not immediately asking for anything from them. This may even give them more confidence in you as a coach because of your own confidence in the situation.
You’ve just set them up for the future ask, and once you have a killer reassessment with them and they’ve lost a few pounds and are clearly living a better quality of life, you need to then ask for a referral. But as you’re setting up this “ask” down the road, you need to pay attention closely to the actual services you provide.
Don’t allow yourself to become a simple commodity.
If your client sees your training or nutrition services as something they can just get anywhere, your value will plummet quickly and it may cause them to cut ties and start shopping for another trainer on price. Instead, you need to treat your services as a contribution to the improvement of something more important in that person’s life. Take their career or business for example.
Let’s imagine you say to your client, “The program we’re on was selected carefully for you because I know what it means for you to have more energy throughout your day and your level of decision making at work is critical in growing your business. This is going to make you feel more mentally alert throughout your workday and that’s the difference between between doing just OK and be super productive in your business.” It’s all in the language you use to make it relative to them and where else they’re looking to grow beyond the gym.
When your clients experience value that improves deeper aspects of their lives or business, they will want to share you with others. Think about right how much you enjoy Game of Thrones or any other show you’re crazy about, and when you meet someone who hasn’t seen it how you preach to them how they HAVE to watch it. You want to make people evangelical about you and your training services in the same way people are enamored with their favorite television show.
When you set up a formal referral system in your fitness business, you can save money on marketing and get better clients. And remember, this system is self-perpetuating. I haven’t spend a dime on marketing and advertising and have a constant stream of clients coming in on a regular basis. You can too if you adopt a system like this that feeds itself.