How To Effectively Ask For Referrals

It’s been proven time and time again, that once

You’ve been referred to someone you are 90% on the way to closing the business; unless you turn up with 3 heads of course!

The reason being is prospects will always do their own homework first on which suppliers to use. With any information available at a click of a button, wherever you might be at any given moment, It makes doing research so much easier. So when that prospect has a friend, colleague or family member RECOMMEND a supplier in an area they were thinking about or better still, conducting their own research, it makes it much easier to go with a supplier that someone you like, trust or respect personally endorses.

Here lies the problem:

Harvard Business Review conducted a study about referrals/ recommendations and they found 2 big findings:

Firstly 90% of customers said “they’d be delighted to make recommendations; ONLY 10% ask!

Having helped over 13,500 sales professionals around the world, I always ask “why don’t you ask for referrals?”

The answers I get back are a combination of:

  1. “Didn’t even think about it”
  2. “If they wanted to refer me they would”
  3. “It’s desperate”

Let me deal with those 3 standard responses:

  1. The reason they didn’t think about it is it’s not a habit YET. It needs to be made into a habit, which I’ll share the 3 best methods to do that in my next blog.
  2. I have received good service from suppliers in the past and been really happy with everything. Did I always recommend them? NO

Not for any other reason than I didn’t think about it and more importantly, they DIDN’T ASK!!!! Had they have asked the right way, I’d have been delighted to make the recommendation.

  1. People often say they didn’t ask for the business as they’re worried it comes across as they’re desperate. This is one of the major reasons why many sales people don’t win the business; they just didn’t ask. This is exactly the same principle with asking for referrals; if you are world class and your customers adore you,

You’re likely to reactively receive some referrals. Start proactively asking and this will multiply 10 fold or more!!

So lesson 1 is ask for the referrals, which I’ll explain how to shortly.

The 2nd finding from Harvard Business Review was everyone you speak to knows 1,000 people. When I first learned this I thought what rubbish, I’ve got 4 mates! When I gave it some serious thought though, I have 3,500 Linkedin connections, over 400 clients and 4 mates. So I exceed the 1,000 people.

Now comes the how; I’ll do the first one on you:

Imagine you swapped jobs with me. Imagine whatever you do for work no longer exists and you are a professional sales and motivational speaker. You speak at conferences all over the World. You also run a sales training company called

Sales Doctors and teach people how to sell. As MD, who would be your first phone call to try and drum up new business with?

Think about previous jobs you worked out, think about your friends and your family or connections you have; who is the first person that comes to mind that works in sales or is responsible for a sales team? Write it down please; the name of the company and/ or the name of the person you’d call first.

Now please email them saying you know a great speaker and kindly cc me in on

See what I did there?

The reason that works is you had to enter my world for 1 minute. Had I of said to you “can you think of anyone who books speakers at conferences or needs sales training?” You probably wouldn’t have given it much thought. As I forced you to think of it, you did; it works.

The second technique is called positive affirmation. The first thing is to get positive feedback. So you say to a customer “at our company we are always striving for excellence and we really value our customers feedback. How have you found the experience in dealing with me and my company?”

As long as it’s positive say “I’m delighted to hear that; it means a great deal to me. 90% of my business comes from recommendations. Who can you think of, friends, family or previous work, who I might be able to help?

By asking it in an open leading way, you are far more likely to get an open response and a positive outcome.

Like all these things, you now have the knowledge, it’s now about taking action. Go ask and triple the amount of referrals you currently get and convert at the highest percentage you’ve ever converted at.


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