How to ask your customer for a referral

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by Tom Watson on June 30, 2013

Are you interested in learning how to turn one customer into two or three? Yea… I thought you would like that! To do so you will need to start asking for referrals.

While that tends to turn some people off for fear of being shot down, I’ll show you how to do it easily through the use of a “referral letter” you send out to your customer base. I’ll include this referral letter as a free download as well.

Asking for referrals is easy

It kind of works like this… Once you get a few customers under your belt it’s a good idea to get start cultivating those customers for referrals. This is both a good business practice and a quick and easy way to get no-cost leads.

Basically it’s nothing more than trying to turn one customer into two or three then repeating the process over and over again. Many business owners are spooked by the thought of asking an existing customer for a referral.

They fear that they will say no or otherwise be put into an awkward situation. To that I say “get over it”, as it’s your job to drum up business. While not everyone will gladly hand over family and friends many will without hesitation.

The customer referral letter

A letter asking for some referrals doesn’t need to be some long and lengthy document that spills your guts begging for names and phone numbers. Instead it should be written as a personal letter in a business like tone asking for their help.

I would keep the letter to just one page to make it an “easy read”. If you send anything longer than that you risk taking too much of their time and having them toss it in the trash. Besides, it shouldn’t take too much time to explain your request for a few referrals.

A common question is… “How often should I go to the well asking for referrals? I would recommend no more than once or twice per year. Doing so any more than that risks turning the customer off to all future requests, besides you don’t want to be a begger.

My advice would be to consider asking for a referral twice per year in the beginning stages of your business then scale it back to just one “referral drive” per year. This will help jumpstart you in the beginning then allow you to focus on running your company once you are establised.

Download your referral letter below

I’ve made the referral letter available in both PDF format and OpenOffice format. The PDF file can be modified with the proper Adobe software or by your local printer and the OpenOffice file can be edited with the free OpenOffice program.

Referral Letter PDF Version

Click Here To Go To Download Page (LOOK FOR FILE #15A)

Referral Letter OpenOffice Version

Click Here To Go To Download Page (LOOK FOR FILE #15B)

If you have any questions or comments about the referral letter after downloading it post them in the comments below. I look forward to hearing what everyone thinks about the letter and how it could be improved or modified.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 lee farlam July 1, 2013 at 1:59 am

Tom – really love the idea of a direct letter !!!! Its personal and very importantly – unforgetable, they will remember it. And ” if you dont ask , you dont get ” – so they say. Also its a very subtle way of passing on a Little resonsibility to your clients to help you
Just a note for anyone else here but maybe also clients get the idea your buisness is doing well ( thats Always how we should sound right ? – we have lots of happy and very satisfied clients etc etc ) then i Think many of them just presume your doing well and dont need any help – thank you Tom – my Company would not be anywhere near what it is today without you – i cannot express how grateful i am to you.

2 Tom Watson July 1, 2013 at 10:58 am

Hi Lee! YES, you need to ask in order to receive. And yes… I thinks it’s good to portray a positive view of your business to others. People want to do business with a successful firm in my view. Thanks for the kinds words too Lee, it’s nice hearing that!

3 Lee July 4, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Hey Tom,

Great article. We get approximately 75% of our new business from referrals but I must admit I have never thought of a handwritten letter asking for referrals. Fantastic idea that we will put into effect immediately!

4 Tom Watson July 4, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Hi Lee! Good luck with the letter and keep up with those referrals… it’s free money!

5 oluwafemi julius July 14, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Hey, Tom, your articles are by far a great one our industry. But one of the most interesting and beneficial one to me is that of referer from clients. Infact, is working like magic for me now. My cliete has increased.

6 Tom Watson July 14, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Thanks for the kind words and I’m VERY happy to hear you are getting MORE customers, keep it up!

7 MARIA ANDREA ROMERO October 3, 2013 at 2:15 am

Hi Tom,

Do I do the same referral letter to commercial cleaning customers?
How much discount will you suggest to the company who referred my services?

Thank You!

8 Tom Watson October 4, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Hi Maria! You could use the same letter, or you could slightly modify it to suit your needs. As far as a how much of a discount, that is up to you. I tend to go on the high side because I believe that is what motivates people. I mean offering a 5% or 10% discount is kind of weak to me. I would go 20% to 30% (one time use of course).

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