How To Ask for a Referral
Remember, you're not making an Oscar acceptance speech here. When you ask for a referral, be sincere and direct. Say something such as, "I'm really glad that you're pleased with my work. I'd really appreciate it if you'd pass my name along to anyone else you know who would be interested in _____________ (what you do). May I leave these extra business cards with you?" Leaving extra business cards with a person makes it easier for them to pass your name and contact information to someone else. Another variation on this script is to be even more direct and ask for names when you're asking for referrals. For instance, you might say: "I'm really glad that you're pleased with my work. I'm always looking for referrals and wonder if you kno w anyone else who might be interested in _______ (what you do)." Pause here and see what they say. Some people will offer some names. Some will say, "Yes, maybe," and not offer any further information. Some will say, "No", but at least you tried. If they do offer names, take them down and ask the person if they mind if you contact the people directly or if they would prefer to pass your information along to them yourself. If they don't offer names, just as in the previous ask for a referral script, ask if you can leave some additional business cards with them that they can pass them along.
Tips for Asking for Referrals
Referrals should always be asked for face-to-face. It's not only more respectful of your clients but more successful. People will always be more likely to do something for someone else if the person is standing right in front of them. (It is acceptable to ask for referrals by email or phone if you work under conditions where face-to-face are not usual or very difficult. For instance, a website designer may create a website for a client on the other side of the country.) If at all possible, never ask for a referral when presenting a bill. The time that you're asking for referrals is also an excellent time to ask a client for a testimonial, a short written endorsement of your company and/or your work that you can use on your website if you have one and in your other marketing materials such as brochures. (Don't expect anyone to write a testimonial for you on the spot; either leave them a printed card or form that they can use or ask them to email it to you.)
The More You Ask The More You'll Get
Don't let your own shyness or fear get in the way of building your business. Referrals will get you more clients. And the more referrals you ask for, the more referrals you'll get - just because the customer knows that you want some. It's a small effort for a great reward.