Over 154 Years of Service to the Furniture Industry
 Furniture World Logo

Too Chicken To Ask For Referrals? - Part 2

Furniture World Magazine


Believe it or not, you are doing your customer's a favor by asking them to recommend you and your store.

Editor’s Note: In the February/March issue of FURNITURE WORLD Cathy Finney looked at the reasons why salespeople should ask for referrals and the most common reason why they don’t. In this issue she gets down to specifics.

Like every other endeavor that is worthwhile, the "timing" is crucial. Don’t ask anyone to recommend you until you are both comfortable in the relationship and with what has transpired. To most consultants, this comfortable time is when a project is finished. Perhaps one room or transaction has been completed, and future projects are being discussed. The total package has been coordinated, and it looks great! This is the time when your professionalism, and your talent are on display.

But, remember that each relationship will be unique. Judge the circumstances carefully and the right "window" to ask for a referral will present itself.


This should be determined by the personality of a particular client. Do you remember the personality types discussed in "Read ‘em & Reap?" (See the August/ September 2000 Issue of FURNITURE WORLD, posted to the Sales Skill Index on the “information rich” website www.furninfo.com). Some ways to ask for a referral based on the personality type of your client follow:

The Dominate (The CEO):

"Donald, I know as one professional to another, you can appreciate that I’m in the process of building my business. Who do you know in the office that may be working on projects in their home? With the hectic pace all of you keep here, I would like to assist them. I would be happy to save them time, and do all the work for them."

The Expressive:

"Tiffany, you are so great! I have had such a terrific time "teaming up" with you and coordinating your living room. What special friends do you have at The Club who are planning some changes in their homes. You have been so much fun. I would really enjoy meeting anyone that you know! Helping them with their homes can only be an adventure!"

The Solid:

"Louise, I am so glad that you are pleased with your new family room. You are one special lady. I’ve enjoyed meeting and working with you, and the "challenge" of designing around five teenagers, two beagles, and a raccoon! Actually, Louise, I salute you. I still don’t know how you do it! What other "moms " at the PTA do you know who are thinking about redecorating? I’d love to meet them and assist them as well."

The Analytical:

"Jonathan, I enjoyed assisting you with your home office. Who do you know at the college that I can assist with any of their decorating needs. You can be sure that anyone you refer to me will be treated with professionalism, and receive excellent service."
Design your scripts for YOUR personality, and "ETHEL’s."

Keep your inquiry confined to a particular "group," or "area." In the neighborhood, at work, at "The Club," on the golf course. When you just say "Who do you know? "What you are really saying is... "Who, in this lifetime, of all the humans in the solar system can you come up with?" It’s too vague. Make your life easier by narrowing the playing field. Help "Sam" target your new audience! Make it easier for him! never ask by using “lizard words’

An article in the April 1998 issue of FURNITURE WORLD (posted to the Sales Skills Index on www.furninfo.com) describes in greater detail these phrases which should never be used.

• "Do you know...?”

• “Is there anyone...?”

• “Could you...?”

• “Would you...?”

• “If you like what I’ve done...” (Get rid of this one now! When you say this phrase, you imply that you might not be great at your job).

•“If you wouldn’t mind...” (Same reason for not saying as above. Why would she mind?) Now that you know the “who,” the “what,” and the “how”… Let’s play favorites.


“Guerrilla entrepreneurs” play favorites. Mr. Levison will tell you that these entrepreneurs, “know it doesn’t take much more work to sell a one-year subscription to a magazine than to sell a single magazine.” Cater to your clients. The ones you’ve already sold. When you don’t “play favorites,” you end up waiting for “new ones” to show up. If you’ve been employed longer than three months, you don’t need to make your living “off the door.” Why would you do that? You have to work six to ten times harder to sell a new customer. Why not contact someone who you already know, and who knows and likes you? Work the system. Don’t let the system work you. That’s what clerks do.

“Customer Loyalty” author Jill Griffin, agrees that the best clients make the best referrals. She believes it is very important for all consultants (guerrillas) to know who their best clients are. “They should look over their sales six, twelve, eighteen months, or even the last several years, and see who has spent the most.” Also add the ones who recommended you the most. “I would rather have a referral off one of my best clients than from an occasional customer. Not all referrals are created equal.” Promote yourself to the “already converted.” There is nothing like “preaching to the choir!”

According to Ms. Griffin, there are three distinct advantages with a prospect that comes via referral:

•Less selling time is required.

•These prospects have greater loyalty potential.

•People come ready to buy. (You, and the product!)

Ross R. Reck’s philosophy is that 25% of your business should come from new opportunities (the door!), 25% should come from your “be-backs/PC’s” and 50% of your business should come from your client’s recommendations!

“Playing favorites,” developing a “hit list,” or what I call “mining for gold,” whichever title you prefer, plug these folks into your follow-up file system and use it. Work it. They should be your favorites. Definitely include them on your “hit list.” They bought you. They are pure gold. Mine for them. They bought you, so let them recommend you!

That’s why Robert R. Reck titled his book, “Turn Your Customers Into Your Salesforce.” Make them work for you!


Sometimes the phone, instead of being a powerful tool, becomes this creature that just materialized on your desk wearing fangs, sprouting horns, and breathing fire! You’re thinking, “I never called this person six months ago when their furniture was delivered. I can’t call them now! Remember this when you make a mistake. Clients, like your parents, will forgive you.

• Acknowledge that you really dropped the ball!

• Apologize (It makes you seem human).

• Be humble

Since you’re too “chicken” to pick up the phone - do what I did . . . Put it in writing! Let the US Postal Service tell her that you will be giving her a call.

Design correspondence that reflects your way of doing business and also fits right into Ethel’s comfort zone. After all, it is your special note to her. See the sample circumstances and letters below.

When You DID Follow-Up After Delivery

Dear Elizabeth,

I’m spring cleaning my client files (I always wrote this regardless of whether it was April or Oct. It either meant I was ahead or behind schedule!) and realized that it’s been several months since we talked.

I’ll give you a call next week. I’m looking forward to visiting over the phone and hearing how you and the family have been enjoying your new living room. You must also give me some of your latest recipes for entertaining!

My appointment book is filling up fast, so let’s schedule an appointment at your convenience. I’ll help you get everything “spruced up,” and you can enjoy another round of golf!

Take care, Elizabeth. I’ll talk to you soon ~

My Best,

When You Didn’t Follow-Up After Delivery

Dear Jennifer,

I was recently updating my client files and came across your name. I realized I hadn’t called you after delivery. I did you a real disservice by not contacting you at that time. I am sorry. I pride myself on following through with my clients, and I really dropped the ball here. Please accept my apologies.

I’ll give you a call next week to see how you and Steve are enjoying your new room. I also want to hear the “latest” on Tommy’s Little League. I hope they’re doing better than Billy’s! I look forward to talking with you, Jennifer.

My best

Thank You For Referring Me

Dear Sam,

“Thank you for your nice referral of Bob Jones. You can be assured that anyone you refer to me will be treated with the utmost caring & professionalism”

My Best,

This letter was taken from “Strategic Marketing,”
by Peter Johnson.

Thank You For Referring Me

Dear Louise,

Thank you so much for thinking of me and recommending me to Alice Baxter.

We’re having a great time working together. It’s easy to see why you two are such good friends.

I really appreciate you putting me in touch with anyone you know who is working on that “special room in their home.”

You know me, making the world of home furnishings easy, painless, and FUN for others is my mission! Thank you for helping me.

I will call you next week so we can “catch up.”

My Best,


“It’s the same in almost every profession. Show me an avid note writer and nine times out of ten I’ll show you a success! One trait, such as writing notes, seems to separate those who are successful from those who are not.” -Peter Johnson, “Strategic Selling”

I’m very big on sending cards. Send cards for birthdays, the anniversary of their sofa/room, offer a congratulations or a thinking-of-you message. If they’re Irish, like me, I make sure St. Patrick’s Day cards are delivered. Send cards off-season so they don’t get lost in the holiday shuffle. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Happy New Year, Fourth of July, or invent one! Poodle-Day, Promotion-Day, or Starting-A-New-Job Day. There are greeting cards for just about everything. If you can’t find it --- create it. That makes it even more special. Plus the fact, that all these cards have nothing to do with business! You’re reaching out, and letting your client know that you value your relationship. It shows that you want to stay in touch.

Always make sure they are cards in an envelope. Do not send postcards. We pitch postcards. Greeting cards are a gift, they have to be opened.

Hallmark sure knew what they were doing when they coined the phrase, “When you care enough to send the very best!”


The “F” in furniture stands for Fun! When asking your client to recommend you, follow the KISS ME formula.... Keep It Simple.

Set yourself apart from the competition while making it easy and fun. According to “Parenting Magazine,” children laugh an average of 400 times a day, adults 15!

What is wrong with this picture? How sad is this! We are told when we are young to,“Grow up.” We act our age. We get serious and then we get too serious. We get ulcers. Now, as salespeople, we have to get over it! We have to get into a playful mindset Wonderful things happen when we enter the world of play.

•People WANT to do business with you!

•It stimulates creativity.

•You become more authentic, more vulnerable, more human!

•It’s healthy. Endorphins are released. You feel better.

•Ladies, when you’re smiling, you only use seven facial muscles. When you frown, the “muscle count” in your face increases to 48! My face already looks like a Goodyear radial. I, for one, am going to keep smiling!

• Keep this whole thing in perspective. You are asking someone who likes you to tell their friends about you. You are not asking for their first born! Remember, it’s a sofa! It’s only a sofa! We are not working on cures for medical research, or writing treaties for world peace. You’ve already been having a good time with “Ethel” or she wouldn’t have bought you. Just keep the party going!

•When you ask, it defines the customer as your client, and defines your relationship!

•Don’t analyze it to death. I call it “paralysis by over analysis!”

“Plug in” the 3 “P’s”

PLAY - Make it fun! Revert to being six!

PRACTICE - Work out a dialogue that you’re comfortable saying. Practice with your peers, on your significant other, your cat, or in the mirror.

PERFECT - Practice your technique until it’s perfect - My philosophy is to never let ‘em see you sweat! Ask like you’ve been asking this since the beginning of time!

Just ask, “help me out.” Everybody wants to help.

Remember the first time you asked someone to buy? How did you do? Did you survive? Yes, you made it, and then some.

You learned that if you don’t ask, you don’t get! Every time you did ask, it got easier. You became a true professional... the one that all of your customers bought! Pick up the phone, or pick up your pen. It’s time to play favorites. It’s time to look for those prime suspects! You, guerrilla, you!

Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates \"T 'N T." She is a noted motivational speaker, sales trainer, and management consultant. Questions can be addressed to her care of FURNITURE WORLD at finney@furninfo.com.