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Businesses grow by increasing the volume of sales they make. One way they are able to achieve this is by expanding their customer base so that more people buy their products over time.

The big bother for many companies is attracting these new customers. While there are myriad strategies for bringing in buyers, a lot of these techniques cost a fair bit of money and effort to execute. Plus it’s not always certain that they will turn out the results that businesses intend them to.

One of the easiest and most effective ways to boost sales numbers is asking for (and getting) referrals. You do this by requesting your existing customers to tell others who might need your service that you’re available to take on their needs.

Referrals are probably the most cost-effective way to gain clients. In most cases, all you have to do is tell your customers that you’re willing to attend to anyone who can do with your offerings. It’s almost like you’re hiring brand ambassadors by word of mouth, without any costs to you. When you land new clients this way, they’re quite likely to be proper members of your target audience.

But businesses do have to pay at least one price if they are to make their referral drive work: they have to offer great service. This is how they can make buyers of their product happy enough to share their brand with others.

How to Ask for, and Get Referrals

Even if your product and service delivery is top-notch, you will still need to ask customers to pass on word about what you do. They may be pleased with your work, but there’s no guarantee that they will be prompted to suggest you to their contacts. You should indicate that you’re open to helping their people.

Here are a few tips for obtaining referrals for your business.

1. Ask People Who Are Happy With Your Service

If businesses want positive responses to their request for referrals, they should make high-quality service delivery a priority. When they have this under their belts, their clients will be favourably disposed to informing their contacts about the brand.

They won’t be telling anyone about you if they aren’t satisfied with your offerings.  

Remember, when they recommend products to their friends, there’s at least a sliver of their own reputation at stake. They want to be seen as a source of reliable information about things. Always be ready to prove that their trust in you is not misplaced.

2. Place Some of the Onus On Yourself

Actually, place a lot of it on you. Don’t assume that you’re giving your buyers an easy task by asking them to refer you to others. Make it as easy for them as you possibly can.

One way to simplify the whole process is to share some of your business cards or fliers with them so that they can pass them on to friends or colleagues who might need your services. This will reduce the amount of explaining your customers have to do and increase the incentive for them to spread the word.

Another step would be to take the contact details of the potential referral from your client. Be careful to do this only if the client is fine with it.  

3. Prepare and Use a Request Format

Maybe you’re afraid you’ll stumble through the asking process. How do you prevent this from happening?

The solution to this concern would be to write a rough structure for your question and learn it by heart. It could become the saving tool you pull out from your memory when there’s someone you want to get a referral from.

You can also deploy referral templates when you’re making requests via email.

It’s important that your question doesn’t come across as salesy. Some good questions you could ask include:

“Are there friends you know who might need this service?”

“Do you know anyone else I could help?”

“Do you know anybody who is facing a similar problem?”

Again, these are framework-questions. You may have to be more specific when you’re interacting with an actual customer.

4. Try a Customer Referral Program

You can place an incentive on your request for referrals by offering rewards to people who lead new clients to you.

The incentives you give should not replace quality service delivery as the basis for referrals. Your price reductions and giveaways achieve the best results when they are additional benefits of an already strongly customer-centric system.

There’s more on setting up a customer referral program in this article.


The most successful referral drives are launched on the back of a strong relationship between businesses and their customers.  By delivering great service and showing empathy for them, you can make them eager to send high quality leads your way, and ultimately contribute to the growth of your business.

Featured image source: Lander

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This article was first published on 26th August 2019


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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