How to Stop Leaving Referrals on the Table

Wayne Gretzky did not become one of the most prolific goal scorers in the history of the NHL by waiting for things to happen. He took shots—5,089 of them, to be exact. As he explained it, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

The principle applies to business, too. Asking for referrals is not always easy. But if you don’t take a shot, you’ll miss the opportunity.

Of course, you don’t want to shoot blindly, either. You could still be leaving referrals on the table if you don’t go about it correctly. Here are a few practical tips you can use to start earning more referrals every month.

Prioritize your efforts.

Certain clients are more willing and able to give referrals than others. Focus your efforts on the former.

Your best clients are a great place to start. The people who are happiest with your services will not only be happy to provide names, but their enthusiasm is likely to convince others, as well.

Recent clients also make great referral sources. The details of working with you are fresh in their mind. And you’ll likely have established a bond. Make it a habit to ask these people for referrals soon after the transaction, before the excitement of their experience starts to fade.

Build relationships and trust.

When people refer you, they put their own relationships on the line. So unless you’ve earned their trust, you’re not going to earn referrals.

One of the best strategies for this is to offer value before you ask for anything in return. It doesn’t have to be related to your service. You could share a new recipe, forward an interesting article, or make a vacation recommendation, just to name a few suggestions.

The good news is that relationship building efforts naturally lead to referral opportunities. For instance, if you learn about particular interests that you and a client share, you can use that to bond. And when an opportunity arises to talk about that, you have a friendly opening to ask for referrals.

Be specific.

Sometimes, when a client is willing to help, they just don’t know how. They don’t think about your business in the same way you do. So they might not recognize referral opportunities that are right in front of them.

Instead of just asking for a referral, let them know who your ideal client is. Provide situations that may identify people who could you help now or in the near future. For example, you could ask if they know anyone who recently started a new job, and explain how you may be able to help them.

Make your efforts ongoing.

Even if you do everything perfectly, you won’t get referrals every time you ask. It may take two, three, or even several attempts before the opportunity presents itself. That’s OK. It’s a process.

Keep building and strengthening your relationships. Look for excuses to stay in touch. Start conversations. Connect on social media. Send them a survey or note to stay at the top of their mind.

When you ask for the referral, be appreciative, even if you walk away empty-handed. People will be more likely to give you the referral down the road if you make yourself likeable at the start.