I Have a Referral for You

Making Referral Business Your Business


How to turn even your toughest client into a referral source

When I was selling Acuras, I’d reached a very comfortable and rewarding 70% repeat and referral business. The breakdown is what’s important to note… While 30% of that total business came from repeat buyers, that number was only trumped by the amount of referral business, responsible for 40% of my total sales. Said another way, 4 out of 10 clients that bought from me, were referred by previous clients.

Now, I don’t care what your product or service is – referrals are where it’s at! What higher compliment could you receive from an existing client, than their referrals? Let’s face it – Whether they showed it or not, this client was impressed with you. So impressed, in fact, they were willing to put their name and reputation on the line.

This is a win-win-win:

For your existing client, they know how much their friend will appreciate them for having found you. For the referred client, the weight of anxiety and lack of trust have been all but dissolved. You just went from ‘stranger’ to ‘mutual acquaintance.’ You have just been endorsed and edified. Your closing ratio just became the best it could be for a new client. Everyone wins. This is the highest reward for practicing “relationship selling.”

Interestingly enough, it isn’t always your favorite clients that end up being the best source for referrals. Picture this: You just worked with one of those clients that wore you down. It wasn’t a great experience for you … and the topper … you’re not making much of a profit. This person, however, then refers a friend to you. Why? Because you are one of the few people they have ever met that patiently put up with their buying style. You are a rare find and they know it. The referral they have for you happens to be a very different type of person – very friendly, easy-going and even lets you make a fair profit. This person knows, all-too-well, that if you could put up with their friend well enough to deserve an endorsement, you must really be special. This person also has lots of friends and is anxious to send them to see you. By the way, this type of scenario is far from unusual.

“How long must I sell my product before I start seeing referrals?”

This is the question that many of us have asked, early in our careers. The answer: sometimes within days! You see, while many of your clients will want to refer business to you (and we will discuss how to handle that later), most people simply do not think that way. Although you have delivered an incredibly powerful presentation with the utmost integrity and professionalism, in a low-pressure and friendly manner, most clients do not immediately think of sending their friends and family to see you. Most people simply are not “connectors.” There is something you can do about it…

So how do you get an opportunity with these potential referrals?

Ask! Here is an easy question to pose to your clients, “Whom do you know that may be in the market next, for [my product or service]?” If you’ve done a great job for this client, you’ve earned the right to ask …  haven’t you? What have you got to lose? A very important tip: Most people will answer with, “Let me think on that and get back to you.” And they won’t. The solution: Have a pen and paper ready, pen on paper and you looking down, ready to write. By doing so, you are assuming and implying that there are referrals to be had. This isn’t just a shot in the dark – this is a common practice of yours. Since you have done such a wonderful job for this client, they should take a moment to think of someone — if not a few people — to recommend and refer to you. There’s another important step in this process …

Next, ask the following questions:

You:  “Would it be better to call; or e-mail [the referral]?”

Client:  “I’ll give you her cell phone number. That’s really the best way to reach her.”

You:  “Great, will you do me a small favor?”

Client:  “Sure.”

You:  “Will you let her know that I’ll be calling tomorrow?”

Client:  “Absolutely. That’s a great idea. She may not be as receptive otherwise. I’ll let her know that you are not the ‘typical’ salesperson and that she should take a moment to chat with you.”

What has just happened here is beautiful. You just gained a lead – a ‘warm’ referral. Instead of cold-calling this person, your client (new friend) will be setting up the call for you. In doing so, your existing client will surely edify you. “Steve is a really nice guy. He’s very ‘low-pressure’ and provides a great service that he’s passionate about and believes in.”

Note: Use your judgment on when to implement this idea. You certainly cannot have this conversation with everyone you meet. When you have built enough rapport with a client — whether they have bought your product or not — feel confident that your client will want to help you in this way. They will also want to help their friend. You see, by setting their friend up with you, they are helping that person avoid the inevitable – a potentially uncomfortable meeting with some random salesperson across town.

For more insight, I recommend reading Endless Referrals, by Bob Burg, and watch our We Mean Business! interview with Bob, here >>

:: Post Your Comments/Feedback ::

(If you don’t see “Share Your Thoughts” below,

simply click on this article’s headline at the top)

© Copyright 2010 to present – Driven To Excel, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Eric Abramson says

    Thanks Steve! Timely, informative and excellent information as always!

  2. For a while I thought that these qsitueons were just talk and the agent trying to obtain some background information. Now I know that a lot of agents are tryng to find out the likelihood of the referring agent finding out that they sold the client customer 2. Make sure that the client customer is contacted and contacted within 24 hours not two weeks from now.


  1. […] last month’s article, I included the phrase “… referrals are where it’s at!” A loyal reader […]

  2. […] on providing excellent customer care and seeking repeat business from current clients. Ask them for referrals frequently throughout the engagement life cycle. Do not just ask for referrals at the end of a […]

Join the Conversation (Reply below)

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.