The Correct Way to Ask For Referral

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Referrals are an important way to grow your business.  Yet many business owners either don’t ask for referrals, or ask in a way that makes them look desperate.

If you ask me for names of people who might use your services or goods, I’m probably not going to make a referral.  You are putting all the responsibility on me, and I may not want to take the time to think about it.  So don’t ask, “Do you know someone that can use my services?”

I personally like using a method that comes from a position of strength while making it easy for customer to refer.  This means doing my homework and phrasing the request in a confident way.

One way is to set up a referral prospects file and keep notes on your top customers’ contacts.  You can do this by doing Google searches or social media to determine who their friends are, who they do business with, and what community groups they belong to.  Then go up to them and say, “I didn’t know you knew this person, I’d love to meet them.”

Make sure that your customers don’t feel that you need their help growing your business.  You must have confidence in the value of your product or service.

Frame the discussion as if there is very limited room for new customers, and the only people you are accepting are friends and colleagues of your current customers.

The portrait studio owner that I discussed in the article “Increase Sales With a Customer Call-Back Department” didn’t just ask for referrals when he called his customers after the sale.  He instead asked a series of questions that helped his customers think of people who could use his services.  “Do you know anyone who I can call that is getting married?  Do you know anyone who is graduating from high school or college?  Do you know anyone who having a special wedding anniversary?”  He would ask about 10 of these questions to help the customer think about special occasions where people might want portraits.


Finally, don’t forget to thank your customer for every referral.  Even better—reward them with a small gift or a discount on their next purchase.