How to Ask for Referrals in Sales with 6 Key Tactics

20 Apr 23

Bridge the trust gap between you and your prospect and learn how to ask for referrals. Start by focusing on your current customers. Read more here!

Last weekend, a strange man knocked at my front door. He introduced himself as a painter named Steve with a unique specialty: painting your home address on the curb in front of your house. But Steve wasn’t looking for my business...

He reminded me, he'd already painted my address on the curb a few years ago. Steve was looking for referrals and told me that his number one source of new business is referrals. A few weeks earlier, one customer recommended Steve to a local neighborhood online user group, and now he could barely keep up with the business.

All of this made me think about how much money sales reps often leave on the table when they don’t take the time to ask for referrals and how easily they can change it.

Why Sales Referrals Work

Sales referrals help bridge the trust gap between you and the referred prospect. According to Nielsen, people are four times more likely to buy when referred by a friend - and 92% of us trust referrals from people we know.

Without a referral, you're a stranger. A prospect has no basis for trusting you. Consider Steve, the painter: without a referral, he’s just some strange guy at your front door holding a paintbrush.

Referrals leverage the goodwill between the referred client and the referring person. A referred prospect already has confidence in you, your company, or your product and will generally move through the purchase process faster than cold opportunities.

That's why Steve, the painter, is so keen on getting them. He knows it's the fastest way to close business. But how can you train your sales team to leverage this power?

Start with Your Best Clients

The first step to getting a referral is identifying your strongest relationships since the referral value is proportionate to your relationship with the person giving it.

So, how do you know how strong your relationship is? Quickly audit your current client relationships based on the following criteria. Clients with high marks across these areas are excellent candidates to ask for referrals.

#1 Relationship Length

The length of your relationship with a client is a key factor to consider when assessing the strength of your relationship. A long-standing relationship is often an indicator of trust and loyalty, increasing the likelihood of receiving high-quality sales referrals.

#2 Communication Frequency

Do you regularly interact with them through phone calls, emails, or meetings? Consistent communication helps build trust and strengthens the relationship, making it more likely for the client to refer you to others.

#3 Response Speed

A quick response time by the client to your communications can indicate high engagement and interest in maintaining the relationship. It shows that the client values the communication with you and is actively involved, which can positively impact their willingness to provide referrals.

#4 Overall Satisfaction

Ensuring clients are happy with your offerings is fundamental to building a strong, referral-worthy relationship since a satisfied client is more likely to refer you to others with confidence.

How to Ask for High-Quality Sales Referrals 6 Key Tactics

Follow These Steps for More Referrals

Asking for referrals can sometimes feel daunting. So, here are some practical steps to improve your referral game and unlock the full potential of your network.

By implementing these tactics, you can maximize your chances of receiving high-quality sales referrals and grow your pipeline.

#1: Recognize the Best Timing

The ideal time to ask for a referral is right after the client has benefited from your product or service. A great cue is after a client compliments you.

For example, if a client expresses their satisfaction with your product or service, take that opportunity to ask for a referral. You can say, "I'm glad you're happy with our product/service. If you know anyone else who might benefit from our offerings, I would greatly appreciate your referring them to us."

#2: Ask for Help

When requesting a referral, approach it with humility. Most people want to be helpful, so use language like, "I would appreciate your help in expanding our business by referring us to others who may benefit from our products/services."

By positioning your request as seeking assistance rather than expecting a favor, you’re more likely to receive a positive response.

#3: Make it Easy

Avoid using generic phrases like, "Do you know anyone else who could use our services?" as this often results in a negative response. Instead, be specific and use your target client criteria to create a short description of exactly who you're looking for.

For instance, "Based on our ideal client profile, we're looking to connect with professionals in the technology industry looking for innovative solutions to streamline their operations. Do you know anyone in your network who fits this description and could benefit from our services?"

#4: Use LinkedIn

Leveraging LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for asking for referrals. Research your client’s connections on LinkedIn and find common connections who might be interested in your product or service.

You can mention this in your request for a referral, such as saying, "I noticed that you’re connected to Jane Smith on LinkedIn. Would you mind introducing me to her or providing a referral? I believe our solutions could be of value to Jane as well.”

#5: Link the Referral

When requesting a referral, seeking permission to use your client's name is essential. You can say something like, "Susan, who is also a satisfied client of ours, thought you might be interested in hearing about how our products/services have helped her in her business."

Another option is to mention a common connection that has already referred you to the prospect, such as saying, "Jim referred me to you and thought we could explore how our offerings could benefit your business as well."

#6: Say Thank You

Always express your gratitude to the client for giving you a referral. Thank them sincerely for their support, and let them know their referral is highly appreciated. Consider sending a thank-you note or a small gift card as a token of appreciation.

Keeping your client updated on the referral's progress is also important. Let them know the outcome and express your gratitude again for their help. If your client has referred business to you, be sure to reciprocate by referring business to them whenever possible.

A Note of Caution

While a referral may get you an appointment with the referred person due to their relationship with the referrer, it doesn't automatically mean they immediately intend to purchase.

Qualifying referred prospects involves asking open-ended questions, actively listening, and uncovering their needs, pain points, and challenges. It's essential to approach each referral with the same level of diligence as any other prospect and set clear expectations from the outset.

By being transparent about the purpose of the meeting and the referral source, you can establish trust and credibility while also clarifying that it's not a sales pitch but an opportunity to explore a potential fit for working together.

In Conclusion

Sales referrals can be a powerful tool to bridge the trust gap between you and your prospects. But many salespeople are uncomfortable asking for referrals because they don't know how or are afraid of rejection.

To ask for high-quality sales referrals, start with your best clients who have a strong relationship with you. In addition, keep in mind the following:

  • The ideal time to ask for a referral is after the client has expressed satisfaction with your product or service.
  • When asking for a referral, approach it with humility.
  • Be specific and make it easy for your clients to provide referrals using your target client criteria.
  • Leverage LinkedIn to find common connections and mention them in your referral request.
  • Always express gratitude for the referral.

The painter Steve is an excellent example of the power of referrals. After speaking with me, I referred him to my neighborhood user group, which resulted in two new clients for Steve.

💬 Join the Conversation

What tactics have you found most effective when asking for high-quality sales referrals? Share your tips and experiences here.

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