6 Surefire Ways to Get Business Referrals

business referralsWord has it that 66% of all sales are through word of mouth, but only 18% of sales representatives and companies have a formalized process for business referrals.

There is another way to look at this statistic: Are you part of the 82% who are going after the 34% of sales that are not influenced by word of mouth or business referrals?

Most sales representatives find it tough to get business referrals, but it doesn’t have to be.

Here are 6 ways to get business referrals from clients and acquaintances:

Let Everyone Know What You Do

This is more for acquaintances but you should let people you meet also know what you do. It is said that everyone has a network of 250 people and these 250 people know 250 people. This means that you can have access to up to 62,500 people.

Imagine how many of these people could potentially use what you sell.

Ask for Referrals

As crazy as this sounds, you should just ask people you do business with or who you know, who they may know that they could refer you to.

Form Relationships with Synergistic Companies

Why not look to other sales people in non-competing, synergistic companies to generate business referrals?

For instance, if you are a home renovation company, consider working with an interior designer so that you can share business referrals back and forth.

Networking Events

Networking events are a great way to meet people that can help you with business referrals. A great resource to for networking events is Meetup.com. All you have to do is go to Meet Up and look for different networking events in your town or city.

If you can’t find one in your town or for your industry, then join Meet Up and start one. I did this and I run two groups in Calgary. I have meet lots of great people and been given some great introductions to people that have translated into business.

Use LinkedIn

One of the best features of LinkedIn is the ability to see people in your network who are in other peoples network that you my not be connected to.

For example, if you want to get in to see a Vice President of Sales for a company, you can go to LinkedIn and see if this person is on LinkedIn. You can then look and see who you know who may know them.

Then all you do is approach your connection to see if they can introduce you to the Vice President of Sales that you want to meet.

Give Referrals

The best way to get business referrals is to give referrals. Always be listening to see if people need help. If you know someone that can help them, then it is your obligation to make a referral.

One Last Note

It’s one thing to get a business referral, but to take things to a whole new level, get introductions. Take your referral process to the next level and get your contacts to line up meetings to personally introduce you to referrals.

Referrals Photo via Shutterstock


Chris Hamilton Chris Hamilton is small and medium business sales and marketing consultant who writes a daily blog, SalesTipADay. He also hosts an online video interview show at NetCastEvent, where he interviews some of the worlds best sales and marketing consultants.

16 Reactions
  1. “Give referrals”
    “Ask for Referrals”

    Both so true. And yet I rarely do either of them.

    This is a good reminder.

  2. Partnerships with complementary companies has been big for me. You enable them to expand their offering while building your business.

  3. Great tips, Chris. It’s always good practice to seek to get new business through your current or past clients. Thanks for sharing with us.


  4. Referrals are the way to grow a great Business, people go on and on about Social Media and Social Business, some people even babble on about Business Directory listings, but truth be told, Referrals are tried and tested!

    • You nailed it.

      Social media is only a tool. Directories are dead in a digital era.

      Thanks for commenting.


  5. I think a good policy is a reward system for every referral, and a cumulative one for subsequent referrals. I had many happy clients who help my Feng Shui consultancy through words of mouth, but really reminding them of the incentives I give for every referral works well.

  6. Hi Chris,

    You can add business directories into your list with business referrals. I’m not talking about crappy fly-by-night sites, but quality, local citations directories like Yelp. The other benfit from thoose directories is that users can rate your company and if you receive enough positive rating you can get:

    1.More customers who are looking for trusted companies
    2.More visitors from se (because local reviews are included in their algorithm.

  7. I agree with Geri, business directories are a critically important for many small businesses but as he says it has moved away from simply listing basic business details and gone more towards business ratings, reviews and more social content which has much more value for the end user.

  8. In almost 20 years of running my Feng Shui consultancy, I’m honoured to say that referrals are WAY more important to me than I ever expected starting out and WAAAAAAAY more profitable than Google Adwords or Facebook Ads or social media as a whole which surprises a lot of people given the hype tech has.

    I am certain that the first and foremost rule you need to have in place to build a system is to plan to exceed client expectations. If you aren’t making enough “WOW” factor for them ask yourself when you last referred a friend or family member to someone who was just average, even if they were competent? I know I’m a fortune teller but I’m pretty certain I can tell straight away that the answer is “never”.

    Wow a customer enough and often they’ll talk all on their own. To this day I find blog posts and reviews people wrote about me that I never asked for and wasn’t even aware of and yet there my customers were telling the world good things about me behind me back for free!

    It’s also worth adding that you need to be clear on when NOT to ask for a referral. This is important because an engagement that faced challenges might be best left to just your keep in touch strategy. I know I once had a plumber from a big firm do some work and everything you can think of and then some more things went wrong, some by bad luck and some by his doing. After he handed me his company standard paperwork asking for a referral at the end of a botched job, you can be sure I warned everyone not to go near them with a 10ft stick!

  9. Thanks for sharing, for the informative points.