How to Ask for Consulting Referrals (Without Sounding Desperate)

You know referrals are a great way to build your consulting business. Asking for them, though, is a different story. You don’t want to come off as pushy, sales-y, or worse yet, desperate. So how can you land referrals without feeling like a bad used car salesman?

First, stop feeling sheepish about asking. There’s nothing wrong with it – and in fact, many successful businesses are built on referrals. So if you’re really uncomfortable about the process, than that says something about your relationships with your clients – and it isn’t good. Asking for referrals should be a natural process. And your clients should gladly give them to you … if you deserve them.

But if you still need to give yourself a pep talk before you go asking for someone to send an opportunity your way, keep these tips in mind:

• Ask your best clients. By “best” we mean “happiest.” It’s an easy place to start. And you don’t need to go into a long spiel when making your request. Try something along the lines of: “Do you know any other companies with similar profiles to yours who might benefit from my services?” will do.

• Think about timing. A good time to ask is always when you’re about to wrap up a project – and the client is pleased with the results. Don’t push your “ask” too far past project completion, though; otherwise their experience with you won’t be as fresh in their minds.

• Be specific. Be specific about the kind of referrals you’re looking for. If you’re interested in working with mid-size companies, say so. If you don’t, then you’ll get leads you can’t use.

• Say “thanks.” Acknowledge the referral immediately and if you get the business, then send a follow up note or email to your client.

Another important aspect of getting more referrals is to educate your clients about the scope of what you offer. A client may only use you for one particular area of expertise, but have colleagues who could benefit from your other services, as well. So help each client understand your full capabilities.

Still don’t want to ask for referrals? Then start giving them. Being generous with your referrals is one of the most powerful ways to get them in return.

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