How to ask for referrals (script included)!

Posted on October 16th, 2022 to Uncategorized

What if I told you that the best way to find your next client is sitting right in front of you? 

Especially in times of economic uncertainty, I know you’re thinking about where your next contract is coming from and how you’ll reach your next big goal. The good news is, you likely have raving fans who would gladly introduce you to your next client, and all you have to do is ask.

Have you guessed where I’m going with this?

Your existing clients.

Even after years of working with exceptional founders at the top of their games, I’m still astounded by how few actively ask existing clients for referrals. When I ask them why not, I typically hear the following:

  • They want to seem successful to their clients, and asking for referrals feels desperate.
  • They don’t want to inconvenience their busy clients and assume they’ll pass along referrals when they have them.
  • They fear asking for referrals makes them sound like a money-grubbing salesperson. 

If you can relate to any of the above, allow me to disabuse you of the notion. After more than 20 years in sales, here’s what I’ve found to be true:

  • Clients know how business works and will likely be impressed by you asking for referrals. 
  • Clients want to help you, but unless you show them how, they’ll do nothing.
  • As long as you come from a place of authenticity and kindness, your clients won’t be offended by you asking (for anything). 

If I still haven’t convinced you to ask your current clients for referrals, let me throw a stat at you:

B2B companies with referrals achieve 70% higher conversion rates. Meaning, with powerful referrals from your existing clients, you’ll be much more likely to close the deal.  (Source: Extole)

Ready to start asking for more referrals? I’m here to help. 

My favorite way to start a conversation about referrals is by paying the client a compliment and keeping the ask more lighthearted. 

“If I could clone you again and again, I would. You are my most ideal client because [insert your reasons]. As I look ahead to 2023, do you have any suggestions on how I can find more of you?!”

In this example, you’ll notice I don’t directly ask for a referral; rather, I ask how I can find more clients like them. I like to start with this approach — as opposed to a direct ask for an introduction — because it invites the client to think creatively, welcoming them to share a referral or other ideas to get in front of similar prospects. 

If the client seems receptive, I will often follow up with a more direct ask:

“I noticed you’re a member of [insert professional organization or similar here] — do they ever invite outside experts to share talks or workshops?”

“Do you have any colleagues experiencing similar challenges who could use my help?”

“I noticed that you’re connected with [insert name here] on LinkedIn — would this be an introduction you’d be comfortable making?”

In all likelihood, all of the above will evolve into a productive back and forth about you, your business, and how they can help you. 

Don’t rest on your laurels once the conversation concludes. Be ready to follow up with an email, providing them with text they can easily copy and paste to make introductions (the easier you make it for them, the faster you’ll get your referrals). 

On the off chance you’re still cringing, don’t worry. I know it can be uncomfortable to center yourself with a client, but I think you’ll be surprised by how delighted they are to support you. 

If you’re willing to give it a try, I invite you to share your results with me at the next Sales Roundtable. Every month, I gather an impressive group of growth-minded founders to talk sales and move business forward, and I’d love to see you there. Register here!

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