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How to Ask for Referrals

Every salesperson wants more referrals, and ALL sales leaders want their people asking for referrals consistently and confidently.

Asking for a referral seems simple, but isn’t always easy. We seem to follow the path of least resistance and ask in an indirect way or procrastinate altogether.

In Susan Ward’s article, How to Ask for Referrals and Get More Clients, she does a wonderful job at looking you straight in the eye (figuratively) and asking what’s the worst that can happen? “Force yourself to get in the habit of asking…”

I’d like to take her example of an effective ask one step further. Remember, just asking for the referral (versus not) puts you light years ahead of where you are today, which is the 80/20 here.

“I’m really glad that you’re pleased with my work. I’d really appreciate it if you’d pass my name along to anyone else you know who would be interested in _____________ (what you do). May I leave these extra business cards with you?”

Let’s point out a few areas that I feel will help you become a professional ASKER for referrals:

Add a deadline or timeline to your ask. When asking for referrals, it’s not uncommon to feel like we’re putting our audience on the spot or being too aggressive. We’re asking for their help after all, so being “pushy” isn’t a great feeling. Being specific in your ask is not being pushy, it’s adding a level of clarity to help your audience better help you. If the roles were reversed, wouldn’t you appreciate a timeline so you can quickly identify if you’re able to help? Try adding “by the end of the month” or even “I’m asking for one referral today, can you think of anyone?”

You’re not being specific with how many referrals. Do you want one? two? ten? It makes a difference. “Pass my name along” is a common method to asking for a referral, but I believe it’s extremely unclear what you’re asking for. If someone asked me this way, I would assume they’re asking me to stay on the lookout going forward, not just a one time referral. OF COURSE we want continuous referrals from our best customers and network, but it’s not always as realistic as “one referral by October.”

Be specific in how many you want, and by when (point above). “I’m asking for one referral by the end of the week.” Remember, we’re trying to get our audience to think of someone they know, not dig through pages of LinkedIn connections!

What type of role or person makes a great referral for you? Let’s face it, we’ve all been asked for a referral and there’s nothing worse than trying to guess at what type of person to think of or look through LinkedIn for. I see this happen in the financial consulting industry. Are you looking for a 30-year-old client? 50 year old? Business owner? Who makes a great fitting customer for you?

You don’t want your audience guessing when, how many, or who makes a great referral. Help them help you and… JUST ASK FOR IT!

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Colin Longren

Colin's "secret sauce" to success is focusing on the 20% of sales conversations that bring 80% of the value to salespeople and leaders. Colin sells, facilitates, authors sales workshops, and expands the business for TMG. He strives to continue to hone his craft and also pay it forward. His favorite sales topic to discuss is Trigger Events and coaching salespeople to understand reasons for a change.