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As business owners, we love referrals from our happy customers. They typically produce the best prospects because a recommendation from a customer provides credibility and reduces doubt in the prospects mind. But do you actively seek them out or simply cross your fingers and hope they come?

Customers who love what you do want to give you referrals. They see themselves as a helper or someone ‘in the know’. And you can influence the amount of referrals you get if you take a proactive approach. You need to ask for them!

“Referrals are important to us. If you know of anyone who would benefit from our services, please contact me. We would appreciate the opportunity to work with them”

Now how difficult is that? No pressure. No sales pitch. Remember, you are not asking them to qualify or pre-sell the referral. You are simply asking them if they know someone who could benefit like they have. Just a few words asking for their help.

When to Ask
There is no right or wrong, but often the best time to ask is immediately after you’ve delivered your product or service and your customer received the value they were expecting, and then some. Make a follow-up call, if necessary, to check on their level of satisfaction – and ask!

Here are some additional ways my clients have used to generate referrals for their business:

– Customer feedback or satisfaction surveys
– Message on invoices
– Customer letters (add a PS at the end)
– Signature line for customer emails
– Website

Keep Them Coming
A good referral process doesn’t stop with the referral. If you want to build a continuous stream of new business, you must take the time to thank and reward those who refer business your way. How you do this depends of the type of business and the value of each prospect.

Some use small cash rewards as a token of appreciation. But free additional services, a small gift or gift card / certificate are other options to consider. It doesn’t always need to be monetary; it just needs to be appropriate for your business and referring customers.

Go Beyond Customers
While customers have first-hand experience with you and your company, don’t stop there. Who are the other advocates for your business? Family, friends, vendors, suppliers and strategic alliances all can send business your way – with a little education and encouragement.

Take the time to teach potential advocates about your products or services and your ideal customers. Who do you help and how do you help them? What problems do you solve and what makes you a good choice? Give them the ‘tools’ and ask for their help too!

Joan Nowak is a Small Business Profit Builder, seasoned Business Coach, and creator of the Hybrid Coaching System for small businesses. For additional resources and ideas to grow your small business, visit While you are there, join her mailing list to get her monthly eNewsletter and receive a free copy of her eBook, Mastering the 7 Elements of Business Success.

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