Generating Client Referrals


Your best source of qualified prospects is client referrals. There is no better lead than one sent your way with a strong referral from a happy customer or client.

It makes perfect sense. People would rather do business with someone they know – or know of – than with strangers. When you’re introduced to a potential customer through a personal recommendation, that prospect has a much higher comfort level than leads from other methods. Few things are as reassuring as a ringing endorsement from someone you know and trust.

According to sales trainer Tom Hopkins in “Sales Prospecting for Dummies“; the average closing ratio for non-qualified leads is 10% compared to a 60% percent close ratio for client referrals.

The Referral Mindset

Think of your business as a web of relationships. Every business contact can potentially connect you with other contacts.  But, unless you actively pursue them, those other contacts will most likely remain out of reach. It might never occur to your contacts to broker an introduction. It’s up to you to put the idea in their heads.

So, how do you get your satisfied customers to actively promote you to their social and professional networks?  You need to train them to think of making referrals, remind them, and make giving a referral as painless as possible.

Asking for Client Referrals

People often forget to ask, or are reluctant to ask for client referrals because it’s tough to work into the conversation. Not all clients are good referral candidates. Ask your best customers, those with whom you have a good working relationship who are quite happy with the work you’ve done for them.

Don’t feel sheepish about asking for client referrals; when you go about it the right way you’re not being pushy or inappropriate. People won’t give you referrals unless you’ve earned and  deserve them.

Overcoming Referral Reluctance

“Marketers often forget to look at this from the consumer’s point of view”, says marketing author and expert Seth Godin.  “Why on earth should I give you a referral? Yes, I know it’s important to you, but why is it important to me? And second, I have a lot to lose if I refer a friend…you might somehow do something that, through no fault of your own, disappoints.”

To overcome these hurdles, Godin suggests giving your best customers something of real value to offer to their friends (like a significant gift certificate). Once you do that, not giving that gift to a friend feels selfish.

Teach Your Customers To Make Referrals

Most importantly, make it easy for them to refer people to you. Many clients would be willing, but don’t know how to clearly present you and your service to others. That’s easily solved by providing a brief explanation of what you do and why the referral should want to work with you.

Remind Clients to Make Referrals

Talk to all current and past customers regularly, and always include a request for referrals.

Always Say Thanks

Always make the time to say thanks for a client referral – both in words and deeds. Send a note, keep them informed of your progress and maybe even treat them to lunch.

It’s Better to Give and Receive

One of the best ways to generate client referrals is to be generous giving them yourself. When you have a chance to refer an associate or bring two contacts together, do so.  At networking events, make a point of introducing people to one another. Most people appreciate it and might be inspired to do the same for you.

Bob Levy