Warm Up Your Prospecting Approach: How to Ask for Client Referrals in 4 Steps

Would you rather send an email to a prospect who hasn’t heard of your company, or be introduced by a mutual connection?

In our current economic climate, salespeople are sending nearly 60% more emails than they did pre-COVID – yet client response rates have dropped by 26%, according to HubSpot. It’s not easy to connect with a prospect.

A strong introduction provides a clear advantage and there is no stronger introduction than through a trusted, mutual connection. Over the next week, try our 4-step approach to asking for a  client referral.


Step 1. Identify Who to Ask

This first step can be approached in two ways. The first is to make a list of your strongest client relationships – these are your best sources to ask for referrals. They trust you and believe that they’re receiving value from your relationship.

Second, you can identify the prospects you would like to connect with and then, do some homework on LinkedIn. Who do you and your prospect know in common? Create a list of the mutual connections you have a good relationship with.

Step 2. Ask for the Referral

Keep your request simple, direct and friendly. Thank your client for their business, acknowledge the great working relationship you have, and be clear about the type of referral you’re looking for. Ask if they have anyone in their network who might be having similar business challenges or would benefit from a similar service or product that you provided to them.

Take this chance to offer your support in return. You can provide referrals to their business, make a connection in your network, or be a thinking partner. Consider what you know about your client and make an offer that fits.

If your client is reluctant, don’t push it. It can indicate one of a few things:

  • Their relationship with you isn’t strong enough to recommend you to a friend or colleague
  • There’s a mismatch between the value you believe you’ve provided and the value they believe they’ve received
  • The way you asked for the referral was clumsy, indirect or otherwise ineffective

Be curious and try to uncover the reason behind their reluctance. Ask if there are ways you could have provided better service to your client. It’s important that you focus on rebuilding this relationship.

Step 3. Reach Out to Your Prospect

Once your client has agreed to refer you, there are two ways to get in touch with your prospect. You can either contact them directly and mention your mutual connection or ask your client to introduce you. Of course, the latter is more effective.

Step 4. Follow Up with Your Client

Thank your client for giving you a referral. Many will also appreciate knowing the outcome of the conversation. Also, make sure to follow-through on your offer of support.

The impact of a pandemic has made prospecting more challenging for many salespeople. In fact, 57% of sales leaders feel that their team’s proactive connection with prospects is worse than in 2019, according to our recent study. A warm outreach will significantly boost the odds of getting a response – and it’s easier than reaching out cold.

Bonus – Three Referral Starters:

1. “As you know, referrals are a key component of the sales strategy in your company and in ours. I hope you’ll be receptive to discussing potential referrals as a valued client.”

2. “I have really appreciated our partnership over the years. Do you know any colleagues or friends who are experiencing a similar business challenge and/or could benefit from our products or services?”

3. “If you were in my shoes, who would you contact to share our ability to help with their business needs?”

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