The Best Way to Ask for Referrals [+ Email Template]

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Written by Rick Roberge @RainMakerMaker

I started my business in 1986 by calling every company I could in the Blue Book. There’s no sugarcoating this: It sucked. I was good at cold calls, but it was still a pain in the neck. My goal became to set up a by-referral only business.

Did I succeed? In 1994, I switched my main business line to a private number. The only way a person could call me is if they knew someone who already had my number. By that time, I had an ironclad referral process, and my business is still thriving today.

Don’t think you should wait for referrals to come to you sporadically — you should instead proactively seek them, no matter what industry you’re in. If you take the time to develop referrals, you’ll get more qualified prospects for the simple fact that people hang out with others like themselves. This cuts the sales cycle to a much shorter timeframe.

You will also virtually eliminate objections of the ilk that the prospect doesn’t trust you. Trust is already built in, thanks to your referrer.

However, getting and giving referrals isn’t comfortable for many salespeople. Building a referral process sounds great in the abstract, but requires a deft touch on the tactical level.

4 Referral Process Tips

1) You have to start somewhere.
Referrals can be an extremely effective way to grow a business, but it’s a snowball rather than an explosion. Don’t expect immediate results.

2) Be excellent at your job.
Customers will only want to refer you if you’ve delighted them. Go above and beyond with your customers to reap the referral rewards.

3) Don’t accept just any referral.
When I first started seeking referrals, I’d ask customers “Who do you know?” and they’d give me some names. The problem with that phrasing was that people would occasionally offer contacts they didn’t have a good relationship with.

I’ve since changed my question to “Who do you like?” to ensure I’m getting referred to a person my customer has a strong relationship with. I can then benefit from the respect the referral has for my customer.

4) Develop a referral mindset.
If you want to get referrals, you should also give referrals. This is what I call a “referral mindset.” Help your contacts and acquaintances grow their businesses by hooking them up with people in your network, and they’ll feel inclined to return the favor.

Many clients are unsure of how to reach out to potential referrals on your behalf. Sending them this email template can be just what they are looking for.


I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve been working with [salesperson] for a few months. The other day, I was talking with him about some of the things that he and I have done, and I realized that I should put you two together. So…

[Referral], meet [Salesperson, with a LinkedIn profile URL].
[Salesperson], meet [Referral, with a LinkedIn profile URL].

Can I leave the rest to you guys?

Talk to you both later.
[Your Client]

Note that the customer isn’t asked to explain to the referral what the salesperson does. It’s not their job to sell the referral.

Phrasing it in this manner (without a lot of explanation) builds on the mutual respect between customer and referral by implying that the referral can give the salesperson the benefit of the doubt. Also, since both the customer and the salesperson are on the email, it would be appropriate for either to follow up.

After sending this template, I usually check in a week or two later with my customer and ask — gently — if they sent it out. If they haven’t, I reply that it’s no problem, and then I do not ask again.

This approach to getting referrals has worked for me, and it will work for you. Don’t wait for referrals to trickle in — formalize your process, and launch it today.

Happy Monday and Happy Selling!