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Five Totally Unawkward Ways to Ask a Client for a Referral

Our past clients are our best proof, so it’s no surprise that customers who are referred by a friend are four times more likely to convert (Neilsen, 2018). So how do we leverage this pool of good press without coming across as awkward, or even worse, desperate?

Here are 5 totally unawkward ways to ask a client for a referral.

#1 Be Direct

If you’re going to be direct you’ve got to do it right. Time it so you ask when your client is experiencing the utmost value of your work. There is no need to feel awkward or insecure when asking at this time. You’ve done a great job, you’ve saved your client the hassle and heartache of working with someone who might not have done the same – so go for it ask for that referral. Especially in the case of B2B or a niche service, see what you’re doing as a favour for your client; they’ll look good in their networks too if they have the scoop on some high-quality services.

#2 Know your Value

This is an extension of the above point. Be sure of yourself and the value that you offer. Value comes in many forms: think of all the intangible ways you provide value to your clients. This is an exercise just for yourself, to see why it’s okay to ask for a referral. Next time you get nervous about asking for a referral, think about all the value you provide to your clients and what that means to them.

#3 Perks

Who doesn’t love a freebie? Whether it’s a discount on services or a thoughtful gift, you’ll make people feel extra special for passing your details along to a friend. Maybe you’re thinking, but won’t this look desperate, like trying to ‘buy’ referrals? The art of giving is doing it without expectation. Don’t lead with, ‘I’ll give you something for a referral,’ instead ask for the referral and then say, ‘As a sign of my appreciation I wanted you to have…’.

#4 Refer your clients too

It’s a two-way street. Show people, you are committed to building a network and helping each other out. What’s great is that this is the most genuine way to show you’re open to referrals. The unspoken convention goes a long way in relationships, leverage this and creates a sincere two-way flow of referrals.

#5 Make sure they have your number

Sounds simple, but is your number in clients’ phones? You can make sure it is by sending them a message sometime during the sales cycle with a remainder to save your number in their phone in case they need it at any point. It’s how you know your info is always on hand in case they want to share it with someone. Business cards and emails just don’t have the same immediacy as a contact saved in the phone, also it represents a level of closeness and confidence between you and your client.

We believe that your clients are your best spokespeople; treat them well and they’ll do the same for you.

NB: Bonus Fact #6 Clients rely less on referrals now

Yes, this whole article is about referrals, they have long been the primary way that firms bring in new business, and while that won’t go away (using the tips above!), internet searches and marketplace apps have become popular alternatives to referrals. In other words, people looking for a firm to solve a problem are less likely to find professional services through a referral because they’re using the internet or other digital platforms to identify suitable firms. However, professional services are more relevant today than ever, so while referrals are decreasing, the perceived value of professional services is increasing.

BUT if it ain’t working, or it still feels awkward, and you’ve already had enough conversations with clients during these times, now is the perfect time to do some real marketing, spruce up your digital presence, and set up a few solid sales workflows. The new normal and the upturn is here – are you ready for it or already behind?


Hunt and Hawk are specialists at coaching and up-skilling professionals in growing their networks through strategic branding, sales & marketing communications. From delivering a great result to leveraging that for more business, we can help you make this process as smooth as possible, as well as a lot of fun! Reach out today.


5 ways to ask for referrals