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Requesting Referrals

By: Joyce Hayne

Word-of-mouth is one of the most effective and cheapest ways to market. A referral from a client is a very powerful tool, but many sales reps are hesitant to ask for one. Perhaps they feel awkward asking, but they need to realize that all businesses need referrals.

Following are some ways to ask for referrals without appearing to be pushy:

Give a Referral

It’s way easier to ask for a referral after you’ve referred a good prospect to your client. Think of friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances you know that could benefit from doing business with one of your clients and suggest that your client call them and use your name as a reference. Better still, make the introduction in person or at least by email.

Conduct a Service Follow-up

When I check in with a client to see how their sales have increased and how our service has been, I get glowing comments back, so I say, “Is there anyone you know who could benefit from working with us?” This is also a great time to ask for a testimonial that you can use in your marketing.

Practice with a Script

Write a script of how you want to ask for a referral. A nice way to start is something like “I’m sure word-of-mouth is important to your business and it is to ours as well. Is there someone you know that could use our product?” Before you start using this script though, practice it the same way you practice your elevator speech, so it comes off natural and relaxed. Practice makes perfect.

Show/Event Referrals

When you’re at a trade show or a networking event, it’s a great time to ask a client, “Do you know someone I should meet here?” If there’s a specific person you want to meet at the event that you think your client knows ask, “Do you know Joe Smith? I’ve wanted to meet him for some time.” This question is a subtle way to request an introduction from your client and it works great.

Written Referrals

If you’re too shy to ask for referrals in person, an effective technique is to write a letter. I suggest the old-fashioned letter, and not an email, since it will get more attention and can sit on their desk while they think of people to refer to you. Once an email is opened, it’s hard to get someone to look at it again later and they may not immediately think of someone who can use your product. Give them space on the letter to fill in 4-5 contacts, providing you with name, position, company, phone and email. When complete, they can email or fax it back to you.


You can reward clients for sending you a referral that turns into a client. Depending on the size of the deal that you close, you can send a gift card for dinner or coffee, or choose a gift that is personal for that individual.

Set a Quota

If you set a quota for the amount of referrals you want each week, it will help you work towards that goal. You can use a variety of techniques to obtain those referrals, so set your strategy at the same time.

People always feel good about helping other people succeed – particularly people they like – so don’t hesitate to ask for a referral.