If you don’t ask for referrals, you won’t get them!

Referrals. The most powerful selling tool.

But also, the part of the sales process that people seem to feel the most uncomfortable about.

Have you heard the term “Know, Like and Trust”? What that means is that a potential customer has to get to know you, like you and then trust you before they will buy from you.  That’s a lot of work and effort that you need to do to close a sale.  What a referral does is jump straight to the end of that – if a potential customer knows that other people trust you, then they know they can trust you too, even if they don’t really know you.

It’s a fact: People would rather instruct someone they have heard of from a trusted source than a total stranger. So if we all know the magic of referrals, which offer instant credibility, why don’t more businesses use referrals effectively?

For whatever reason, many don’t bother to ask for referrals.  They hope to get referrals, of course, but they don’t overtly do anything about getting one. So when a project is done, they just walk away, without asking for one.

Why? Because it’s harder than it sounds.

Imagine your past clients as an infinite web of relationships. Every one of your customers has the potential to connect you to dozens of other contacts. The relationships are out there, but they’ll likely remain out of reach unless you actively pursue them.

On the other side of the table, the client has his or her own concerns – and none of them have anything to do with helping to grow your business and get you more clients. But assuming that you’ve done good work and the client is satisfied with your performance, it’s not that they don’t want to help you out; it’s that it never enters their minds…

Unless you ask them!  It’s up to you to put the idea of referring you in their heads

When you first start out its true, asking for referrals can be really uncomfortable. This is where you need to change your thinking; there’s nothing embarrassing, pushy or smarmy about it. Remember: People won’t give you referrals unless you deserve them. In fact, getting a referral is the highest compliment you can receive.

You need to ask yourself one question – do you want to get more clients? Then set aside your squeamishness and force yourself to get in the habit of asking for a referral from every satisfied customer.

How to Get Over Your Fear of Asking for Referrals

  • Remember that most people like to help other people (if there is no negative cost to them).
  • Remind yourself that the worst that can happen is that the client says, “No”. That’s not too terrible, is it?
  • Make asking for a referral part of your process. With most business, there’s a last contact with the client, or a follow up call – a perfect time to ask for a referral.

So how do I do it?

Let me break it down. Asking for referrals has become a habit, something I do regularly and so it has become something I am totally relaxed in doing.

1. At your first interaction with someone.

Sow the seed in their mind at the point of booking. One of the first things you should ask during an enquiry is “where have you heard about me” or “have you been recommended to me by someone? The reason I ask is that almost all of my work comes through recommendation”.   This opens up the idea that you get recommendations. Plus it also lets them know that you must be good if most your work comes from this source.

2. During the quote stage.

If you send a written quote put in  a line that says something like “As you can see, I do things quite differently and so after we finish our project, I would love it if you could introduce me to other people who are looking to have an impact on their business, just like you”.  By saying this at the time of booking, it reminds them that you’ll be good and it opens the door up to the conversation when you ask for the introduction later on.

3. After you’ve completed your work with them.

Once you’ve completed your work with your client, and they are happy with what you’ve done, respond with a thank you and a referral request. For example, “I’m so pleased the project went so well for you, do you know anyone else who can benefit from my services?“.  Word of mouth is one of the most powerful ways to propel referrals. If you want to get your clients shouting from the rooftops about your services, you have to dazzle them. But if you do, they will always refer you to their friends and colleagues because it is in our very nature to be helpful.

4. Be specific.

When asking for a referral. If you don’t tell your contacts who your target customer is, you’ll waste time pursuing leads you can’t use. Referrals come in all sorts of different forms and flavours. If someone merely provides you a name and email address, that’s really just a lead. But if a customer actively talks up your offering, sets up a meeting or brings the prospect in the door, that’s the best kind of all referrals you’re looking for.

5. Say thank you.

Get back to basics and always thank someone personally who has given you a converted referral. Maybe even think about offering a discount if they use you again.  Win win.

6. Give and you shall receive.

One of the most powerful ways to get referrals is to give them generously yourself. Whenever you have the opportunity to refer a client or bring two contacts together, do so. Most people will appreciate the referral, and it may inspire them to respond in kind.

7. Follow up.

Don’t let the quest for referrals end at the close of business.  Maintain your relationship with your past clients by having ad hoc communications with them to see how they’re getting on and if they’re still happy.  This might stimulate new business with them, but it also reminds them about you; therefore they are reminded to refer you onto someone else. This is something you should pop in your calendar so you don’t forget to do it, you could also automate this by using an auto responders and scheduled emails.

Remember: Referrals are the number one tool in your marketing tool kit so get in the habit of reaching for it.


Emily Cooper, Director, ERC Communications, Content strategist, copywriter, blogger, multi-tasker and “just mum” to Erin and Isla. emily@erccommunications.co.uk


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A Note From Brilliant Together

A big thank you to Emily for doing this guest blog for us. If you have some great business advice you’d like to share via our blog, please let us know: hello@brillianttogether.co.uk

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