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How to STOP Being Scared And ASK for Referrals


We all know how it feels.  The anxiety.  The self-doubt.  The cold sweats.  The pain and personal anguish.  No – we’re not talking about the fear you experience as you mull over asking your crush on a date.  We’re talking about the fear small business owners often experience as they mull over asking a customer for a referral.  Yeah, fear of referrals.

But it’s true.  Business owners tie themselves in knots trying to determine the right time to ask for a referral, or how best to ask for one.  They fear rejection.  They worry they’ll come off as needy, desperate, or even worse, annoying.  Then, before you can say “entrepreneur”, the opportunity vanishes as the client walks out the door.  The good news is, it doesn’t need to be this way.

In reality, referrals play a huge part in making the business world go ‘round.  Despite the fear, lots of business owners manage to find the courage to ask customers to tell their friends about their business.  Most of the time, customers are happy to oblige.  So then, what’s the secret to getting over your fears and asking for a referral?  It’s all about your mindset.


Asking For Referrals – It’s Not About You

Why should you ask for a referral?  Because you want more business.  Still, this truth should not be the driving thought behind your ask.  Remember, everyone needs business.  But if you are thinking “I need the referral because I need the money to keep my business afloat and my bills paid…etc” that added pressure will make it even more difficult to ask.  So what to do?  Change your outlook!

Think about asking for a referral as making an offer to help.  Say you’re a mobile app designer, and you’ve built a beautiful, responsive and easy-to-navigate app at an affordable price for a very happy client.  By doing great work, you’ve not only built an application to help their business grow, but you’ve also eased their pain.  Now, when asking said happy customer for a referral, ask them who else they know who you can help, or who else’s pain you can ease.  If you’ve got a satisfied customer, they’re going to want to help you help their friends.  

Don’t worry so much about the dollars and cents of a possible referral.  Those will take care of themselves.  Put your attention on your customer, and who they know who you can help.  As a business owner, your customers always come first – not you.  The same goes for a referral.  It’s really that simple.



ASK For Referrals By Starting With Who You Know

So, now you know that referrals are all about helping other people – not boosting your bottom line (but that will happen, don’t worry).  No need to stress yourself into a tizzy wondering where to start.  Start with who you know.

  • Family & Friends

If you’re just starting out, grab that low hanging fruit!  Ask your family and friends if they know of anyone who you can help (you want to ease someone’s pain, right?) with your business/specialized skills.  Remember, there’s no shame in this – we all need to make a living.  Since these are your family and friends, and most of them want to help you (we’ll leave your weird uncle out of it for now), they’ll almost certainly send someone, or many someones, your way.  

  • Your Best Clients

Really, this applies to any clients who are happy and satisfied with your work.  Also, think about:

  • Any other companies or freelancers who you’ve collaborated with successfully
  • Any complementary businesses to yours within your industry – for the app designer example, this could include:
    • A graphic designer you think highly of
    • An SEO professional who is efficient and affordable
    • An ace videographer specializing in videos for mobile applications

Also, if you know of any businesses or freelancers who you can refer your customers to, that could turn into a referral you never even asked for!  Odds are that if another entrepreneur gets business from your referral, they’ll be more than happy to return the favour.  Easy peasy!


Securing Referrals Without Asking

That’s right, you don’t always need to ask for a referral to get one.  The Internet can be a huge help to any small business owner trying to boost their referrals.  Think about it – if you’ve set up a robust online presence for your business, you’re halfway there.  All your contact information (emails, phone numbers, social handles etc.) basically allows the internet to act as a referral system for you, while you sleep.

Make sure your business’ contact information is widely available, including with:

  • Your email signature
  • Any marketing materials sent out on behalf of your business
  • Any company-related newsletters

Be sure to engage with the following:

  • Any comments on your business’ social feeds, positive or negative – social users will see that you are responsive and professional when responding, and can go a long way in swaying someone to reach out to you
  • Make sure your business is listed on Google My Business and Yelp

Also, install a referral button on your website.  When someone enters a friend’s email address into it, a personalized referral link is sent to that person.  Saasquatch and InviteBox are great for this.

Lastly, testimonials.  If you ask a satisfied customer who else you can help, and they don’t know anyone off the top of their head, don’t panic.  You can always ask for a testimonial – a one or two-sentence blurb written by the customer about what they love about your business.  Post that on your website and it lives there 24/7.  Who knows who it might convince to give you and your business a try?


Referral Me This, Referral Me That

Remember, asking for a referral is all in how you think about it.  You’re asking satisfied customers – who’ve witnessed your expertise and professionalism firsthand – who else they know who you can help.  Don’t forget, if you’ve covered your bases and set your business up to thrive online, the Internet will do some of that referral work for you.  

One last thing to remember: when asking for a referral, the worst that can happen is a “no.”  That’s what you’ve been afraid of all this time?!?