Five ways to ask for referrals without sounding desperate

Regardless of how much advertising you do, your most effective and cost efficient source is from referrals. However asking for referrals can be challenging. Many business owners feel it makes them appear needy, desperate, or imposing. So here are five ways to ask for referrals without making you – or your customer – feel uncomfortable.

  • Don’t be shy. Just like you, chances are your clients depend on referrals, but may also be too shy to ask. If you come right out and start with something like “As you know, in my business referrals are everything. If you know someone who you think could use my help, please pass my name along”. In most cases they will say the same thing back to you.
  • Incentives for everyone. Make current customers an offer where you will send both them and a person of their choosing a product sample, coupon, or exclusive promotion. All they need to do is provide the contact information of the other person. You send your customer the gift, then reach out to the new person letting them know of their surprise gift and who they can thank for it.
  • Say thanks. You don’t need a referral program to show appreciation. Simply keep track where new customers come from. If someone mentions the name of one of your current customers, be sure to send them a card and small gift thanking them for the referral. Be sure to mention the name of the person they referred. As for the gift, gift cards for restaurants, movies, or a pre-paid credit card is an easy option that will never get tossed in a drawer.
  • Refer others to your clients. As a result of working with companies from various industries, people have come to know me as “the guy who knows a guy”. I send lots of business to my clients and they love me for it. Playing matchmaker will win you the loyalty of current customers, while encouraging them to return the favour.
  • Reciprocal relationships. You don’t need to rely on just customers for referrals. Non competing companies in your industry can be a great source. Think of electricians and plumbers, or accountants and lawyers. Sending clients to each other is not only good for business, but make you a trusted resource.

Marc Gordon is a recognized marketing expert. He regularly appears on TV and radio. His articles appear in over 200 publications worldwide. Visit or his online show at for more business tips.