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Should You Provide Client References, with Erik J. Olson


Episode #1347

If you have been in business for any amount of time and you’re talking to a prospective client, you’ve probably asked for a list of existing clients that they can call on. In this episode, Erik shares how he handles requests for references.

October 6, 2022

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Episode Transcript

Erik J. Olson (00:01):

Should you provide client references to prospective clients or simply refuse what is happening? This is Erik J. Olson. If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, then when you’re talking to a prospective client, you’ve probably been asked for them for a list of one, two, or three, maybe four clients, existing clients that they can call on. Now, look, there’s some schools of thought about whether you should provide client references or not. Now, when they’re asking you for references, what they really have is an objection. There’s still some unknown that they need to, like, they need to ask them questions because they’d have some doubt. So the first thing that I would recommend that you do when someone asks for a client reference is ask them, or actually just state something to the effect of, Hey, if you’re asking for a client references number one, now you know I’m not going to give you a bad reference, right?

(01:02):

It’s a rhetorical question, but, but they’re gonna probably be like, Yeah, well, I mean, of course. Like, so then you can get to the real question, which is now, now what is it your concerned about? What can, what information can I give you now to answer whatever question you have? And so I would try something like that because obviously you’re not gonna give a bad referral, right? So then you, you’re, they’re just delaying, They’re delaying cuz they have some question about something. So try to get to the question as quickly as possible. Now, in the past we have freely given out references to prospective clients. At some point we changed and we said, You know, we’re not gonna do that anymore. This is silly. And so, and here’s why it was silly, because number one, we knew there was an objection that was unanswered.

(01:46):

So we had to get to that. But number two, we have testimonials galore. They’re all over our website. If you go to our Google business profile, we’ve got a ton there. We’ve got references and testimonials and accolades and awards. We have validation all over the place. So why really does a prospective client need to contact a client? Like it kind of doesn’t make sense. And then also you need to be careful about providing your clients’ information like willy nilly to just anybody. The last thing you want is for your clients to have to give you a favor and another favor and do you another favor and do you another favor. Every single time someone just asks for a reference, cuz it’s bothering them, you’re taking up your client’s time and energy and, and there’s political, goodwill, capital that, that you’re spending every single time you ask them to give a reference. It’s just a pain in the ass for them. Honestly, it’s a time suck and you don’t want to do it unless now this is something you need to keep in mind in the sales process. If you’re going to give a client reference, and again, it’s usually more than one, they’re gonna want a couple. If you’re going to

Erik J. Olson (02:58):

Do that, I would preface it by making a phone call. Do not do this over email or text message over a phone call to the prospective client and say something to the effect of, Hey, Mr. Or Mrs. Prospective client I know you asked for a client reference, not a problem. I understand. I’ll get those for you. But before I ask my clients to talk to you, there’s something I wanna know. Like if I provide these client references, is that the last piece of information that you need? Now, if the answer is something other than, Yep, that’s it, I just need the client references and then I’m signing on the dotted line, if that’s what they say, great. Give ’em the references. I would contact your existing clients, let them know who may be calling them and, and then provide that information to the prospective client.

(03:52):

By the way, don’t hand out cell phone numbers. You should never do that. Email addresses and work phone numbers. But if they say anything like, Well, it kind of depends, or if they have other questions, address those questions first. Cuz you want, if you’re gonna let your clients be bothered with your business and business development is your business, not their business, right? So if you’re gonna bring your business into their world, make sure that is the last objection that this prospective client has. And once that is handled, you are good to go there signing, They’ve got no more concerns. So this actually happened to me today, and that’s exactly the process that I followed. I really wasn’t interested in handing over client references, but I had several that I could, and I called the prospective client and I said exactly what I told you to say, which is, is this the last thing that you need to check? And you said, Yep, this is it. I said, All right, cool. Here you go. So that’s how I would handle requests for references. I think if you try to not provide references, it’s gonna be a problem. But first try to figure out what the real objection is before you hand them over. And then also make sure that is the last thing they need to check.

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About The Hosts


  • Erik J. Olson is an award-winning digital marketer & entrepreneur. The Founder & CEO of Array Digital, he is also the host of the Journey to $100 Million Flash Briefing and daily podcast, and the organizer of the Marketers Anonymous monthly meetups.

  • Kevin Daisey is an award-winning digital marketer & entrepreneur. He started his first company when he was just 23, and is the Founder & CMO of Array Digital. Kevin is the also the co-host of the Journey to $100 Million Flash Briefing and daily podcast, and the co-organizer of the Marketers Anonymous monthly meetups.

Website Design, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Online Advertising, Social Media & Digital Marketing.
© Array Digital LLC

Website Design, Online Advertising, SEO, Social Media & Digital Marketing.
© Array Digital LLC