Get Relief from the Common Cold Call with Referrals

Know anyone who is building a business via cold calls? I don’t. Yeah, they may be out there, but they’re few and far between. Let me ask you a question: If someone is not smart enough to list their phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry, do you really want that person as a client?

So what’s your marketing alternative? One of the best ways top producers build their book of business is through referrals. Although referral business usually generates the best type of clients in terms of both quality and revenue, many people are not clear on how to effectively get their clients to refer well-qualified prospects. So here is a step-by-step guide to follow:

Set a Referral Goal Like anything else in your career, you can set a goal for the number of referrals you want. A general rule of thumb is that 50% of satisfied clients you ask will give you at least one referral. So, if your goal is to get 5 referrals in a month, you need to ask 10 clients.

Start Asking! There are two main reasons why people don’t ask for referrals. One reason would be that they are afraid of rejection. Hey, you already did the hard part — you got someone to agree to do business with you. (That’s called a sale …) If they are satisfied with your service, you’ve earned the right to ask for referrals. If you feel unworthy of asking, either you don’t believe in what you’re doing or you lack self-esteem.

More commonly, people don’t ask for referrals because they haven’t learned the right words to say. So here’s a little script to follow. By all means adapt the words to your own style:

“Mr./Ms. Client: I’d like to discuss referrals with you. To begin, what do you believe has been the value of our work together?” Another way of asking this is, “What difference have I made for you since we started to work together?” Get them to articulate how you’ve improved their situation, saved them money, reduced their fears, etc.

After they’ve done this, ask, “Based on the value of our work together, if I were to do a great job for someone you referred me like I have for you, what would be in it FOR YOU?” Or, “How would that make you feel?” Make sure your clients understand that referring prospects not only makes them feel good, it strengthens the relationship with the people they refer.

Thank them, then share who you’re looking to get introduced to: “I may or may not have explained previously, one of the ways I build my clientele is through referrals from good clients like yourself. My ideal prospect is someone, like you, who ___________________.” Simply fill in this blank with the characteristics that describe your ideal prospects. If your service is for individual households, you’d describe the kinds of people who make your best clients. If it’s for corporate employees you’d ask for C-level executives, VP’s, directors and managers. If it’s for business owners you’d describe the type of business, size of business, number of employees, number of locations, and any other defining characteristics. For example, I ask my clients for names of high achievers in the financial services industry (financial planners, insurance agents, branch managers), small business owners and 100% commissioned sales professionals who would like to go to the “next level,” invest in their own personal development and make (or desire to make) at least six figures.

Then, rather than asking, “Who do you know?” jog their memory banks by giving them categories of people in four areas of their life, using the acronym F.O.R.M.,
as below:

“I could ask you, ‘Know anybody?’ But that usually leads to a blank stare. So let me give you some categories of people in your life that will help you think of the ones who may also benefit from working with me.”

Family Parents, children, in-laws, siblings, uncles, aunts, step-relatives — even close friends and neighbors.

Occupation Peers, bosses, reports at their place of employment. If they own a business, then it’s clients, vendors, networking partners, professional
association members.

Recreation Who do they golf with? Play bridge with? Go to dinner with? Travel with? Go to alumni events with?

Meaning/message Who do they attend religious services with? Do they have a cause, charity, civic organization or foundation they support? If so, ask whom they associate with, like board members, fundraisers, membership committee
people, etc.

Enlist their help. If they do give a name, ask, “What would be the best way to for me to connect with this person?” When they advise you, ask, “I don’t suppose you could call them to find out if they would take a call from me, or not?” Most people will readily agree to find out if the person they’re thinking of is open to hearing from you. If they agree to make the call, I strongly encourage you to set a follow-up date by phone with the referrer.

Set the date Once you get the “green light” to contact the referred person, get in touch to introduce yourself. Be sure to ask the prospect about their relationship with the person who referred them. Then set a time to meet.

Don’t forget to thank them! Immediately afterward, send a thank you note or email to the referrer, along with promise to keep him/her posted on your progress with the person referred — that’s just common courtesy, and it will bode well for referrals in the future.

Bottom line Get relief from the common cold call with referrals! Asking for referrals is a process, not a one-time event. Keep asking and you WILL receive.

PS — I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Bill Cates ( and Bob Burg ( for their expert ideas on getting referrals — thank
you both!

Success Skills Coach Jim Rohrbach, “The Personal Fitness Trainer for Your Business,” coaches business owners, entrepreneurs and sales professionals on growing their clientele. He has helped hundreds of individuals to achieve their goals since he developed his first coaching program in 1982. To arrange a Free Consultation with Jim, go to