10 Referral Tips for Bagging Big Business


September 13, 2007   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Many sales people, in the beginning of their career, have to scramble, scrape, and scour for every prospect they can get. The sales people who get to the top know that success all about networking. In order to network effectively you must ASK for what you want and also scratch some backs in return. One of the best networking elements is asking for referrals.

I think most would agree that referrals are a great way to grow business. So then why doesn’t everyone do it? 2 Reasons: they failed and gave up or they didn’t make it a routine. So what follows is a guide to make sure you have 1) a referral routine that works and 2) a way to Fail Proof It!

Referral Routine Simplified

1. Ask Every Client. Make it a habit to ask every client if they know someone who could use your services. Explain to your client how this is a win for them too. The less time you spend on marketing, the more time you can spend on helping clients with their needs.

2. Be Specific. When you do ask for a referral, don’t be shy. Let people know exactly what type of clients you are looking for. Examples: “My specialty is working with clients who have complex technical needs and over 100 employees.” or “Do you have any friends in executive level positions like yourself who need help with their stock options?” or “I enjoy working with clients like you and your family who need to save a lot in estate taxes. Do you know anyone like yourself who would also benefit from my services?” or “My business is segmented such that I work with clients who have a net worth over $500,000. I also specialize with clients who have elder parents who are in need of estate planning guidance. Do you know anyone like that who needs the type of services I provide?” If no names come to mind, ask permission to follow up: “Would you mind if I follow up with you in a few days? Which day is better to
call you, Wed or Thurs?”

3. Get Contact Information and a Personal Introduction. If a client gives you a name, ask for a way to contact them and ask for a personal introduction. Your client may want to get back to you on this. Be sure to follow up. Make it easy and enjoyable if possible with an invitation for breakfast, lunch, golf or other social activity.

4. Gratitude. Send a thank you note to your client the day you receive the referral and again upon making contact with the referral. A quick hand written note goes a long way. You will probably only get 5-20% of your clients who will refer you business. BUT, that’s ok because those people will make multiple referrals if you show your gratitude. If allowed in your industry, you could also send a small gift if you feel it is appropriate.

5. Follow-up. This is just part of being a good sales person.

    • Follow-up with a letter to the referral as soon as you set a meeting with
      that person as a confirmation of your upcoming meeting listing any materials
      you would like them to bring.
  • Follow-up with clients who need to get back to you with referrals.
  • Follow-up with clients who make referrals to thank them and ask for more.

Fail Proof Your Referral Routine

1. Client Meeting Agenda. For every client meeting have “Ask For Referrals” be your second to last agenda item. It might be titled “How We Can Help Your Friends, Family, and Colleagues” or simply “Referrals.”

2. Electronic Reminders. Schedule a reminder in your electronic calendar to notify you each morning to remember to ask for referrals.

3. Contests. Create a contest in your office or if you work alone create one amongst your colleague friends in your field. Have the most organized person be in charge of the contest. Have some fun prizes like the winner gets his car washed by the person with the lowest referrals. Or it could be just a simple free coffee. Whatever will motivate people and make it fun.

4. Physical Reminders: Yellow Stickies. Keep a yellow sticky reminder near your desk, phone or where ever you are when you are talking to clients. Or try some sort of physical reminder of which only you know the meaning. Maybe a simple trendy red string around your wrist or perhaps your lucky cuff links will help remind you. Whatever works.

5. Charts. There are a few options you could choose: electronic such as Joe’s Goals, excel spreadsheet, or a paper chart where you simply mark down your accomplishments for the day. Here are metrics that are useful to track:

  • the number of clients you asked for a referral
  • the number of referrals you got
  • the number of referrals you booked appointments with
  • the number of referrals who converted into new business

Now, go ask for a referral and report back on your success in the comments! What did your referral business look like today? Please share!

Written for Dumb Little Man by K. Stone, author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvements. Popular articles are Maximum Energy in 10 Simple Steps and How to Be a Great Salesperson.


Getting Started with Business

Learn About Business

More on Business

Business Individual Reviews