Sales: Asking for referrals

Sales: Asking for referrals

As sales people we tend to know that our best customers are the ones that are referred to us from other satisfied customers, clients or referral sources.  We all know this, yet asking for the referral can be a daunting task.  There are feelings of unworthiness, a desire to not ‘pressure’ our clients, and plain ole procrastination and fear.  If we really want our business to grow then we need to get over these feelings and learn when, and how to appropriately ask for referrals.  You do believe you provide value for your clients don’t you?  If so then why would you not want everyone to benefit from your experience and expertise?  Part of the mindset that needed to shift for me was to change from the mentality of ‘begging for business’ to ‘how can I assist more people’.  When we practice this small mental shift asking becomes offering and the whole process becomes much easier.

Asking for referrals was the topic of a Mortgage Broker Mastermind session I recently facilitated.  There were several different groups that discussed the same topic.  I thought I would share some of the ideas/thoughts that came out of these sessions.

To start with we broke down the sales process for a mortgage transaction into three components so we could look at the timing of the ask in relation to where we were in the process.  We identified the three stages as follows:

  1. Before (Pre-approval)
  2. During
  3. After (Post closing/firm commitment)

Pre-approval Stage

We found that most brokers were not asking for referrals at this stage of the transaction.  The overwhelming sentiment was that brokers felt they needed to “prove themselves” before asking for a referral.  While it might be a little awkward asking for a referral when you have not ‘proven yourself’, it is certainly not out of line to set expectations at this point.  Most agreed that at this stage of the transaction they outlined the process to their clients letting them know what to expect and at what times to expect it.  What better opportunity to set the expectations around asking for a referral?

Outline the entire process for them but also add “and once we are done, if you are pleased with what I am able to offer you, I will be asking you for a name of someone you might know that could also use my assistance.”  That doesn’t feel awkward at all does it?  You are simply setting the expectation and getting their mind thinking in that direction.  This preps them for what is to come and the reality is if they do know someone who could use your services right now, assuming they like you at this point, they will likely be prompted to give you that referral immediately.

No sales pitch, no pressure, just a gentle reminder that this is what you do and that you LOVE helping people.

During the transaction

Again the vast majority of our participants admitted to being less than stellar at asking for referrals at this point in the transaction as well.  While this point of the transaction can be overwhelming and you may not want to burden your clients with the ask, it is important to remember that it is at this time when they will be most having the conversation about what they are doing with family, friends and co-workers.  You know what it’s like when you buy a red car?  All of a sudden you start noticing hundreds of red cars out on the road.

You can find non-intrusive ways to ask for the referral at this point as well.  There are a number of different techniques, but one of my favorite is to talk about how stressful this process can be, ask if (and express your hope that) you are making the process a little less painful for them.  If they agree you are, then you can remind them that in conversation they may run into others that are either going through the process or about to go through the process and remind them that you are happy to have a conversation with anyone who might need assistance.

Post Transaction

This is the point where most agents were actively asking for referrals.  At this point you should be comfortable that you have done a good job for your client so the ask is usually easier to do here.  There are a number of different ways to do this at this stage from verbal, email to a follow up survey, ensure you have a referral ask piece in your process.  Also ensuring that your ongoing ‘keep in touch’ campaigns keep you top of mind and also ask for referrals is key.

A few bullet point notes/ideas from our sessions:

  1. Set expectations that you will be asking for referrals early in the process
  2. Be specific with your ask: Rather than saying do you know of anyone who needs a mortgage, find a way to be more specific.  Do you know of any other individuals purchasing their first home? refinancing?  renovating? etc.
  3. If you get a positive response ask for contact details.  Be proactive not passive.  Asking them to “please pass on my contact info” takes it out of your control.  Instead ask “Can I have their name and number and use your name as an introduction?”
  4. Ask your referral sources for referrals.  Don’t forget to ask your referral partners such as Realtors, accountants, lawyers, etc for referrals.
    1. Be specific here too.  “Hey Ms. Divorce Lawyer, who is the next best divorce lawyer in the city?  What is their contact info?  May I use your name by way of introduction?”
  5. Ask for testimonials
  6. Use a satisfaction survey
  7. Branded packing tape as a gift early in the transaction
  8. Ask for online ratings and reviews.  Social proof is a huge driver of business.  Make it easy for your clients to rate/review you on Facebook, Google, Yelp, etc.  Using a link shrinking service like can help with less intimidating URL’s
  9. Human response is predictable:  Script it, use an email template.  You can customize to match your personality but experiment, find what works and do it consistently.
  10. Thank those that refer you.  Create a program for the one off referrals as well as those that refer you on a consistent basis such as a Realtor partner.

What does your process for asking for referrals look like?  I’d love to hear your best practices.

Your thoughts?

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