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How to Ask for Referrals without Pushing or Begging

by Bill Cates
How to Ask for Referrals: DON'T BEG!

When I teach people how to ask for referrals, this is the resistance I usually get:

“I don’t want to make my client feel uncomfortable by putting them on the spot.”

“I don’t want to look needy or unsuccessful.”

These are two of the many reasons why people aren’t confident asking for referrals and introductions. I get it!  I totally understand.  Two important points:

  1. Having the right approach will alleviate all the concerns, fears, and awkwardness.
  2. Are you willing to get comfortable and confident? If not, then you can stop reading now.

It’s been awhile since I’ve run through our popular V.I.P.S. Method™ for asking for referrals. So here goes…

V = Value Discussion (How to Ask for Referrals)

Without question, in my 20 years spent coaching people on how to ask for referrals, the Value Discussion is the most important strategy that I teach.

It’s quite simple. Let your new clients (and even prospects) know that candid, ongoing communication is important to you and the health of the overall working relationships and that, pretty much every time you meet, you’re going to check in with them to make sure everything is okay; that they continue to see the value in working with you.

Then continually encourage your clients to express frustrations and anything that’s not working 100% for them. AND… encourage them to tell you the value they get and/or how you continue to earn their business.

For some sample language, to stimulate how you might do this:  CLICK HERE for a 1-page report.

I = Treat Your Request with Importance

When you’re deciding how to ask for referrals, you always want to come from a place of confidence.  You want to treat the request with importance for two reasons:

  1. You believe the work you do is important.
  2. You don’t want to be apologetic or needy.



P = Permission to Brainstorm or Explore

What makes a request for referrals feel pushy is assuming your prospect or client is ready and open the conversation. This is why we make sure it’s okay to pursue this collaborative (brainstorm – no pressure) discussion.

I often get the question, “Aren’t you giving them the opportunity to say “no?”   Of course! The last thing I want to do is pursue a conversation they don’t want. I’ll learn about their perspective to see if I can re-frame any incorrect assumptions, but if they don’t want to do this, then neither do I. Our research has demonstrated that the mere request for introductions plants a very powerful seed that can produce introductions later.

S = Suggest Names & Categories (Come prepared to ask for referrals)

When you ask for referrals, come prepared and let your client know you’ve come prepared. This will give you more confidence and produce better results.  If you say, “I have a few ideas I’d like to run by you. For instance, the last time we me you mentioned a couple of people. May I run them by you, to see if you might be open to crafting an approach that would feel comfortable?”

This is a soft, but proactive approach that will create curiosity on their part.

Some people will tell you, “You shouldn’t ask for referrals.”  That’s hogwash!  The key is doing it the right way – having the right strategies in place.

This is merely the tip of the iceberg on how to ask for referrals.

For Sample Language on How to Ask for Referrals Using the V.I.P.S. Method™, CLICK HERE.

Referral Coach