7 Steps How To Ask For Referrals

The confidence in asking for and expecting referrals comes from the knowledge of what to say.

When it comes down to it, the core of why people don’t consistently ask for referrals at every single opportunity and expect to get five or 10 referrals from every person they meet with is because they’ve had a bad experience from asking. That one bad experience sticks in their mind and the fear of that rejection holds them back. With creating a script for referrals, one of the things to hold at the front of your mind is that asking for referrals is an art. One of my favorite quotes is by a guy named Scott Kramnick: “No matter how artful or talented you are, you must follow a specific methodology to be successful at expecting and getting quality referrals.”

There are seven steps in asking for referrals that apply whether you’re at an IT company or selling widgets.  These seven steps can be customized to fit any type of process when asking for referrals.


Step #1. The Referral Transition Statement

The most common step that is skipped in this whole process is step one, the transition statement. A good analogy for this is to remember the first time you ever drove a stick shift car. When you do not have a transition statement in asking for referrals, imagine that you’re missing a gear when you’re shifting gears in a car.  That jolting feeling is the same feeling somebody has when you don’t work a transition statement into your process of asking for referrals.

Referral Transition Statement

Referral Transition Statement

One of my favorite transition statements is doing two steps where you build them up.  First, you thank them and you then plant the seed for the referral. How that sounds is, “You know what, Emmy, thank you so much for who you are and making an investment into your future. I wish I had ten more customers or ten more people to talk with every day who are just like you.” That does a couple of things. Number one it makes them feel good. Number two it plants the seed that you’re not going to ask for one, or two, or three referrals, but that you’re going to ask for ten referrals in a minute.

Step #2. Clearly Ask For The Referral

The next step is to clearly ask for a referral. On this step the key is making sure you clearly ask for the referral without using the word “referral”.  There’s something weird about the way society has branded the word referral. It’s seared into their mind as a bad word and creates an objection that doesn’t need to be there. We still build them up and create a buying atmosphere and how it sounds is something like this – “You know, based on who you are and who you know, who do you think would at least be a good fit to talk with about their needs?”  Watch their body language when you say this part and if they start to cross their arms and show you that they are going to put up their defenses, then use this next line – “You know, Nancy, my job is to at least meet with everyone and I’ll show them the same professionalism that I showed with you.”  That’s the attitude in this phase of buying a building atmosphere.


Step #3. Paint The Picture
The third step is to paint the picture. In painting the picture, you want to put them in your shoes. You want to tell them specifically who you are looking for. It sounds something like this: “If you were me helping raise the bar in people’s lives, who would you go talk with first? Who would you see?”  They could already have a name stuck in their head, and they say, “You should talk to my friend Karen,” but that usually doesn’t happen. That is why you need the next step.


Step #4. Isolate The Faces
Next you need to isolate the faces. When you isolate the faces, there are two things you must do.

You start broadly, you identify their circle of influence and then you get specific. When you get specific, that is the closing question in this process of getting a referral.

#1.  Then you find the circle of influence. The best time to find that is at the very beginning, when you meet them and are building rapport. My favorite question to ask people is, “What do you like to do for fun?” It sounds like a random, broad question, but people love to answer it and this is where you get the gold. When you ask them what they like to do for fun and they tell you yachting or racing sailboats, that’s where you get tapped into their specific circles of influence.  Now you know where you can get referrals and you can do it in the rapport-building phase. It should sound something like this: “Basically, Dan, what I’m looking for is anyone who has recently had a job change, has kids, or is moving in or out of town. I know you’re really involved with your PTA group. Who is somebody that you’re closest with in the PTA?” Now that is starting broadly because there are several people in the PTA. One of two things could happen with that question. They could instantly think of someone that’s a fit for you, or what is more likely is that they are going to give you a slight objection and say that they can’t think of anyone.
#2.  This is when you get specific. The next question is the closing question, where you isolate it down to one face. You want to make them think of one specific person. The question that you ask next will definitely have an answer to it. It can be as simple as, “Who did you sit next to in your last meeting?” If you’re asking about who they know at their country club, “Who did you play golf with last?”

Usually the first name they give you is not the most qualified name for what you do, but that’s ok. What we’re trying to do is create momentum. Once that momentum is going and you get that first name, you’ll be able to get more.

A shortcut to this step is called the barbeque technique. The barbeque technique is where you say, “You know what, Dave, if you were to have a barbeque who would be the first five people you would invite?”


Step #5. Write Down The Referral

With those names, you then go to the next step where you write down the referral. This may sound strange, but a lot of people forget to write down the referral. Here are the steps to writing down the referral.

Number one – once you say that closing statement of, “Whom did you sit next to in your last meeting,” you need to break eye contact and be quiet. You don’t talk until they give you a name, no matter how awkward the silence is. You need to have a referral pad. Get a legal pad and at the top write “referrals”. Go ahead and write five referrals on there from the last person that gave you referrals. Pre-fill out your pad before you use it for the first time so that the perception is that every single person is already giving you referrals.

Step #6. Ask “Who Else?”
The second to last step is you ask “who else.” Do not get pre-approach immediately. If you do get pre-approach immediately, you will leave with only one referral. Write down as much information as possible and then thank them for giving you the referral and always ask who else. It will sound something like this: “Thank you so much. I really appreciate this. Who else do you know at the country club?” Keep talking about the different circles of influence until they are out of people in that area and then you say, “I know you’re really involved at your church. Who do you know at church?”


Step #7. Get Pre-Approach
Once you have the list of ten people to call, you get pre-approach. The main four things you want to know are:

1) What is the decision maker’s name?

2) What’s the best time to reach them?

3) How do you know them?

4) What kind of decision maker are they? Are they straight to the point, detail-oriented or outgoing? Write down what they say and apply the rules to Navigate because that will identify their buying behavior style.

Click here to learn more about how to ask for referrals, expect referrals, get referrals, and then sell to referrals!

How To Ask For Referrals

How To Ask For Referrals

3 Responses to “7 Steps How To Ask For Referrals”

  1. This was really good. It seems so logical so why haven’t I been successful? He answered that question for me so, all I have to do is be prepared in how I ask. Thanks

  2. […] Have I convinced you and now you’re wondering how to ask for referrals? We have a 7-step process you can follow to ask for referrals.  I’ve already blogged this process, so if you missed it, you can read that post here. […]

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