Everyone wants great reviews, testimonials, and referrals. But there’s a big difference between wanting these things and actually building them into your company’s process to ensure you get them.
Referrals and positive reviews are tied to hugely positive outcomes for your business. Both significantly reduce customer acquisition cost (CAC), which results in faster and more profitable growth. This means anything you can do to increase the percentage of your customers that provide reviews and referrals will have a big impact on your business.
Once in a while, customers will proactively provide great reviews and referrals. More often, they’re busy and won’t ever think to do it unless you ask. So, the first lesson is just that - always ask! But how should you ask? When? How can you build processes around asking?
In this post, we’ll answer these questions and discuss strategies to reliably generate great customer reviews and ample referrals at your company. With these simple techniques, you’ll win more customers and drive profitable growth.
1) Know when to ask
Time it with a positive experience. If you’re going to ask a newly won customer for something, the best time to ask is after they’ve had a positive experience. After closing (agreement signing) is one of the early points in the process when can it make sense to ask for referrals and reviews.
The solar sale has plenty of good opportunities. Here are some milestones in the solar sales and installation process where it can make sense to make a request for a review or referral:
- After closing
- After a site visit is scheduled
- After a site visit
- After installation
- After the system is turned on
- After they’ve saved on their first post-solar bill
If you offer any ongoing services like system maintenance, this can also be a good time to follow up with the customer.
2) Know how to ask
Ask in person. Asking in person is a powerful way to leverage the relationship and trust you have established with the customer during the sales and installation process. In-person requests usually see better results than simply asking over email or on the phone due to the increased engagement when you are face-to-face with the customer.
Find multiple ways to ask. The in-person pitch usually includes a lot of information, so including review and referral requests in an email, text, or online using MyProposal can be helpful. This allows the customer to respond to your request using their preferred communication method and at a time that works for them. While in-person requests have obvious benefits, giving your prospect multiple avenues to provide a review or referral will maximize the chance that they follow through.
Here are a few ways you can ask customers for reviews & referrals:
- In person at a certain part of the pitch, in response to a compliment, or after questions. designed to create opportunities in the conversation.
- Proposals using referral forms and links - both easy to include using Sighten’s MyProposal.
- Marketing emails to a set of customers.
- Automated emails triggered by a specific part of your sales process.
- Personal emails sent from the sales rep or service provider.
- Texts triggered by a specific part of your sales process.
- Phone calls providing information or assisting the customer.
3) Make it a routine
Plan your request routine. Decide when to ask, how to ask, and then plan it into your process. The good news is that it’s not that complicated - it’s just about planning, process, and practice. As you craft your request process, make sure that you’re asking at multiple times and in multiple ways but be careful not to overwhelm your customer.
Map out the customer journey. If you plan to make multiple requests - referrals, reviews, and testimonials - it’s also important to balance out when the customer will get these requests. A good way to do this is to map out the “customer journey.”
This doesn’t mean you have to actually create a map. It’s just about understanding the touchpoints experienced by the customer - calls, visits, applications, and emails. It can be as simple as thinking through what the sales experience is like for the customer. A white board or a list or a spreadsheet are quick ways to jot things down so you can keep track of the different touchpoints.
Create incentives for your sales team. Payments to sales reps for positive reviews as well as referrals can be a very powerful way to ensure that your team prioritizes making the request. The solar sale can be complicated, so setting up a commissions plan will ensure that asking customers doesn’t get lost in the multifaceted solar sales + installation process. Giving all referral leads to the sales rep that generated the referral is another powerful way to create strong incentives for your sales team to ask customers for referrals and reviews.
4) Boost referrals with rewards & social proof
Reward referrals. Offering customers rewards for referrals will have a huge impact on the percentage of customers that actually follow through and provide referrals. People are obviously more motivated to provide a referral if they get a payment, giftcard, or special discount on their project. Make sure your reward structure encourages your customers to send in as many referrals as possible while maintaining referral quality. Setting different reward levels based on whether a referral actually closes versus just sits through a pitch can be an effective way to ensure you’re getting real referrals.
Plan your outreach. When you receive a referral, don’t just drop them into a generic lead outreach process. Create an email or outreach plan that will reinforce why you’re reaching out to them and what they stand to gain. Include who gave the referral and make sure your outreach is timely and personal. They’re likely to reach out to the customer that referred them and you want solar to be top of mind for the referrer.
Use social proof. Being referred by a friend or neighbor is a very powerful way to begin any sales process - the prospect has already received a huge dose of social proof from someone they know who chose your company! That social proof is a big part of why referrals often close at much higher rates than other lead sources. Build off of this and use it to your advantage by including further social proof - testimonials, case studies, online reviews and ratings - in your initial outreach to the referral.
Here are some good ways to craft email and outreach to get the most out of referrals by leveraging social proof and sales best practices:
- Include who referred them. Include the name of whoever referred them so they have context on why you’re reaching out.
- Include savings & benefits. Include example savings and other benefits of going solar with your company.
- Add more social proof. Above and beyond the referral, provide additional social proof like good ratings, reviews, and testimonials. You can get a refresher on the social proof examples and best practices we’ve talked about in our blog: compelling solar sales pitches: storytelling and social proof.
Make timing matter. If you include a special promotional offer that helps the referral take action to set up a call or visit, it can help them get the ball rolling. You might already be offering a promotion to the customer that provided the referral. Don’t forget about using promotions or incentives for the referral as well! Limited time offers can be a good way to give the referral a reason to act sooner rather than later, since later can mean not at all.
5) Make it easy for happy customers to give reviews
Reviews turn satisfied customers into online advocates. In today’s market, it’s important that your online presence reflects your offline successes. This way, when people research your company there is positive information available to illustrate that you’re a great choice.
Consider screening for the most satisfied customers. You may want to include a step in your process that helps screen for only the happiest customers. Consider starting out by having reps only recommend certain customers for review requests and go from there.
Make it easy. Send your review request with a quick and actionable way for the customer to respond. Include a fillable form with a prompt and an easy way to submit the referral. Provide a direct Google review or Yelp link. Instructions for setting these links up are easy to find online.
Keep it simple. Try to stick to a single request and single call to action for a given request. This will keep the communication direct and easy for the customer to complete. Again, make sure what you’re asking for is easy to understand and not very demanding to complete.
Ask for specifics. For reviews and testimonials, asking your customer to describe a specific part of their experience will help them move past the writer’s block blank canvas effect and into the examples of what went well. This will also result in more compelling and less generic reviews.
Try asking the customer about their favorite part of going solar with your company or what went well about a part of the experience you want to showcase to future prospects. We know from the science behind selling that people love stories, so try to set people up to share the story of their unique experience.
If a customer has a really good experience to share, consider asking them if you can use their review as a testimonial in your marketing efforts. They’re often flattered that you want to feature them and happy to help!
Putting it all together
Reviews and referrals can both play a significant role in your company’s ongoing success, so it’s worth creating a process that proactively seeks them out. This plan of action will ensure that you maximize the return on investment for your happy customers, and allow them to “pay it forward” by bringing in even more customers.
Remember that simply having a plan and putting it into action is likely to start getting referrals and reviews in the door. Decide what parts of the sales process you want to build off, what you want to ask for, and how you’ll routinely get your request in front of happy customers!
Want more tips? Make sure you’re subscribed to our blog to stay in the loop on sales best practices, new features, and more! You can also reach out to Sighten at firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch with your account executive.