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How to Earn the Right to Ask for a Referral

By: Katie Myers Wednesday January 6, 2016 comments Tags: small business, referrals

Do you kick yourself after the feeling of a missed opportunity to ask for a referral? There is a sense of pressure and a certain level of beating ourselves up when we admit that we don’t ask for referrals. I started thinking about this topic a few weeks ago as it has been asked quite a bit lately in the trainings we provide. How and when do you ask for referrals?

I want to take a trip down memory lane back to when I was selling life insurance. I was a 100% commission life insurance agent and was selling insurance from Colorado to Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas. I would start out with a list of leads and then in every single house I was in I would collect at least 10 referrals. 10 REFERRALS out of every house! I got to thinking, why was it so easy to get referrals to sell life insurance, when it feels so awkward and like pulling teeth to ask for referrals in service based business?

Well, my friends, I figured it out. It all comes down to 2 things: timing and the ask.

When I was selling insurance and asking for referrals of other people to present my presentation to, I was specific, clear, concise and HAD EARNED the right to ask for the referral. Let’s explore each of these a bit deeper shall we?

1. Timing

There is always an appropriate time to ask for referrals. The key is being able to identify at which point it is appropriate. Each of our businesses has a sales cycle and process. You must pay attention to the amount of time you spend with your customers for a service. You have to spend enough time with them to fully secure the KLT (know, like, trust) factors. You have achieved KLT to an extent already -- that’s why they are customers -- but now you have to deliver on your promises of service.

2. Timing Part 2

When you have hit the KLT factor and provided your service or product confidently, it is time to ask for a testimonial. Testimonials are the gateway to asking for referrals. When you receive a testimonial from a client you are getting the exact information needed to make a deliberate, concise and clear referral request.

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3. The Ask

Now that you have received a testimonial from your client you have the RIGHT to ask for a referral. Your client has solidified that they are happy and that you have provided them with a solution. You now need to take their testimonial and it turn it into an ask. There are 3 components they have given you that you can turn in to a referral request:

  • They expressed their pain points
  • They voiced how you provided a solution to those pain points
  • They have identified themselves as an ideal client

4. The Ask Part 2

Just like your 30 second promotional when networking, you need to be specific about how you are asking for referrals. DO NOT use words like “anyone” or “anybody” or “someone who." You must be specific. Ask your client for an introduction to a particular job title, industry, or role. Ex: busy business owner, solo-entrepreneur, sales manager, employer etc. Then add in the pain points “I would like an introduction to a solo-entrepreneur, like yourself, that is experiencing (XYZ pain points) that I can help serve by providing (outline the solution in their words!).

5. Visit the original post to learn how to finish up your referral ask!

Do you have any tried-and-true strategies for asking for a referral? Share your knowledge in the comments!

Katie Myers

About the Author: Katie Myers

Katie is the founder and CEO of CR Conversations, a Denver-based company dedicated to helping small business owners increase customer retention by listening to their customers. She's on a mission to bring the power of conversation back to business through follow-up strategies, effective communication, and genuine caring.

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