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How to Get Clients to Send You Referrals

Referrals play a big part in keeping your agency growing. So why aren’t you getting any?

Are your referrals coming in like clockwork? Or do you have to fight tooth and nail for them?

Your referrals may fall into 3 categories: non-existent, trickling in, or flooding in.

Regardless of whether you have more than you can handle, or struggling to generate leads, you can always use more help.

But are you using your best assets for referrals?

You may see testimonials for agencies, but this word of mouth only goes so far. It may be glowing, but it’s relatively impersonal.

In contrast, a happy client does a lot of the work for you when it comes to quality referrals because they are already delighted with what you do.

So why wouldn’t they want to share it with everyone they know?

You may not be going about it the right way. Sure, they love your services. But do they feel the need to share that love?

Everyone goes through it in their agency. Dry spells and lulls are bound to happen.

But if you want to start automatically generating your leads, you may need to change a few things.

Is your agency not generated leads automatically?

This may happen because your clients, no matter how happy they are, aren’t referring more clients.

Referral deficiency can be a big problem. And many agencies end up giving discounts for referrals to entice clients to provide more referrals.

After all, they are doing you a favour, right? That introduction to their contacts and friends comes at a price.

At least, that’s how it may feel.

But having these discounts and freebies on the table may end up costing you more money than it gains.

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The Steps

There is a different way to go about getting referrals that not only makes things simpler. But also automatic and consistent.

Step #1 – Avoid These 3 Mistakes

Before we start on what to do to get those consistent referrals, let’s cover what not to do. These are common mistakes that I see agency owners make all the time.

1. Annoying Your Client

You probably don’t mean to do this. But calling a referral out of the blue and name-dropping your client’s name can get very upsetting.

They trusted you with that referral information. And you or your team would want to avoid sounding like a telemarketing call.

Furthermore, saying that your client gave you the information can make things awkward. For everyone.

2. No Referral System

Another big mistake you can make is not having a referral system in place at all. And the only time you try to get them is a reactionary measure to your client dropping off and you feel that revenue is getting tight.

3. The Wait and Pray Method

Lastly, there’s the wait and pray method. This is when you hope your client recognizes what a good job you have done and sends referrals your way.

This strategy has you waiting around for things to happen. But you need a strategy in place that’s proactive.

Step #2 – Referrals from Partners and Clients

Did you know that referrals can come from partners as well as clients?

Sure, everyone knows that clients can give referrals. But partners can send tons and tons of referrals your way. And they’re in the perfect position to do it.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you should give up on referrals from clients, though. They are still a primary source of referrals for many agencies.

But what happens if you have tons of referrals pouring in? Do you start to feel like you owe the one giving you these referrals?

You may feel obligated to hand out favours. And that may lead to feeling that you are over-servicing them.

A better solution would be to create a system that pre-negotiates the referral. That way, it’s understood from the beginning what a client may, or may not, receive for their contacts.

Step #3 – Five Hot Principles

1. How to Pre-Frame Your Relationship

First, you need to pre-frame your relationship. That means you are creating one in which you and your client are working together to help each other out.

This is different from a traditional client-agency relationship. The point is to create a dynamic where you are both giving and receiving. And this way you don’t run into over-servicing issues.

Let them know that they will be successful and that you don’t ask this of everybody. However, because they are of such high calibre you offer them the chance to refer other equally high calibre people into the program.

Why would this work? It creates scarcity. You just told them you don’t ask everyone to do it, and you think they will be successful.

It would also be helpful to emphasize that you only want people of their calibre.

Remember, do this when they’re raring to go. Preferably in the late stage of the sales process. And posit it as a question, you can ask them how they would feel about having the privilege of referring people to the program.

2. Watch for the Win

What does watch for the win mean?

It means training your teams to watch for the best time for a referral or reminding them of their promise.

When clients are winning, they may be more willing to giving those referrals because they are in a good mood.

So teaching your team to recognize the right time to ask about that referral is an integral step to creating a consistent referral system.

When you were a teenager, you knew the best time to ask your parents for the keys to the car. It’s using those same skills, and being able to gauge the mood and environment.

3. Capture and Calibrate

Now that you’ve got your client excited about giving referrals, it’s time to teach them how to do it.

The last thing you want is for information to get scattered as it’s repeated.

In addition, teaching clients how to refer is a win-win situation for the both of you.

So now that your client is ready to give referrals, it’s time to fine-tune their technique.

4. Invite and Explain

The next step in this process is an invitation and explanation. You want the invite to come across like a gift from you on behalf of your client. And in this scenario, the client is the hero for providing the introduction.

That eventually leads to the “explain” part of this step. The explanation is a simple introduction to each other. But it’s valued because it’s personal.

Additionally, let the referral know that you normally don’t do this. But on behalf of your client, you are willing to extend them an invitation to a workshop or other event.

The actual invitation may vary depending on what type of services you provide. But you get the picture.

5. Remember to Follow Up

What happens if you don’t follow up on a referral? It makes you look bad.

You don’t want to look bad. And your clients feel good about referring someone to you. So you don’t want to drop the ball on this one.

Get into the habit of spending one day a week following up on referrals from the previous week. Contact the client that gave you the referral and let them know how things are going between you and the referral.

Keeping your client in the loop really helps them feel more appreciated. And keeps you in good standing with them, too.

Step #4 – Create Your Agency/Referral Promise

Finally, you want to get your agency or referral promise down on paper. This will help solidify your strategy and create a sound plan to follow for consistent referrals.

First, create a name for this promise. You can make it simple by incorporating your agency’s name followed by the word “promise.”

Next, you want to write down all your commitments. So think about all the things that you promise to your clients. Simply brainstorm all of your ideas.

Think about what they hire you for and the number one key result they basically want. Your written commitments will be the roadmap to that end result.



Many agencies suffer from referral deficiency. Some feel awkward about asking for referrals. And others give so many discounts that they end up losing more than they win.

In addition, annoying clients, not having a system in place, or even waiting for referrals to come are also big mistakes that many agencies make. But putting a proper system in place can provide automatic and consistent referrals.

Instead, follow the five hot Referral Getter principles to have your referrals coming in like clockwork.

Set the tone for your relationship with your client. Time your requests right. And don’t forget to show your appreciation afterward.

Lastly, don’t forget your partners. They’re an often overlooked resource for referrals who can send a ton of leads your way.

Dev “Referral Boss” Basu