How to Create a Smart System to Generate Word-of-Mouth Referrals Right Now


It’s easy to assume that your clients will refer you—after all they chose to do business with you and we all know you are AH-MAZ-ING! Right?!?!

Yeah, not so much.

Just because your clients chose to do business with you, doesn’t mean they will refer you. That is a fact.

Let’s set client experience expectations

You already know that a customer will share a bad experience with a company at three times the rate of a positive experience. So first a client has to have liked doing business with you—that’s different than getting a like on social media by the way.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually want satisfied clients. Yes, satisfied clients are loyal clients, and they are also low-referring clients. In a study conducted by Absolute Engagement, only 20% of satisfied clients gave referrals. While 98% of engaged clients gave referrals. An engaged client is one that has KiLT—they know you, like you, trust you, and see your value (it’s the blue ribbon under the kilt).

I want engaged clients—to me, they are also way more fun to work with.

Second, you have to have given them a reason to remember you or think of you in a referral situation. If you were so plain Jane to work with that probably means that you are forgettable. If you are forgettable, then how are you going to be top of mind? And, did you really provide them value?

Referrals = Reputation

The reality is, your brand and your ability to receive a steady flow of referrals are all based on your reputation. What and how do your customers think about your business? What do they think about the services that you provide? How do they talk to others about the value that you have given them? The answer to these questions reveals what your reputation is in the market. It also reveals the likelihood of generating a steady stream of referrals.

The challenge here is that if you just ask, you’ll most likely hear the boilerplate, “It’s great. You’re great. It was fine. I’m satisfied.” Remember, we don’t want satisfied clients. Your challenge is to get them to go deeper and divulge their truth. There are a couple of ways to do this, including hiring someone (like me) to get them to talk. People are more willing to open up and share the good, the bad, and the ugly with a third party than they are with you—it’s a safety thing. They don’t want to hurt your feelings.

Another way to do this is by getting them on the phone (actually talking instead of texting) and ask them how they are doing and what challenges they are dealing with right now. Maybe you can help them with a service that you offer or, you know someone who can. Make sure to explain why you think this person is a good match and offer to do an introduction. You’re helping them solve an immediate problem that they have. Another way is by asking a question like, “Based on your experience with me, would you recommend me to others.”

When you are doing a direct request in person, over the phone, or Zoom instead of asking for referrals first, you want to focus their mind in a particular area. So ask a question like “How long have you worked in your industry?” or “How long have you worked for this company?” Questions like this focus their mind on business and with people they’ve worked with. Then, ask them, “By the way, is there anyone you’ve worked with that would benefit from working with me like you did?” or “By the way, is there anyone that you’ve worked with that I could talk to that I could help like I’ve helped you?” Because their mind is focused on specific people and experiences, they are more likely to be able to think of someone for you.

Many business owners are afraid to ask for referrals. “I don’t know how to do it without sounding pushy or needy.” They often feel like they don’t know if they’ve provided value. They don’t want to show up "like a salesperson". Wait…hold on…let’s stop right here. You are in business to make money, you don’t make money, you go out of business. It really is that simple. A referral is worth 10-15x of a cold call. You don’t have to be sleazy when you ask. You do need to believe that you provide value.


Get over your fear. You do provide value and asking for referrals is mostly about getting out of your own way and inviting the people that you have enjoyed working with the most, to share their experience with others—think of it as finally figuring out how to clone your best and most favorite clients. Like attracts like and rarely does a referral of a favorite client result in a client you can’t wait to get rid of.

When should you ask for a referral?

There are three main milestones when you can ask for a referral—right after you close the sale, after the first success, and when the project is complete. It’s ok to ask at each of these. The one that will have the best results is if you ask after the first success. At the completion of the project, if they choose not to do business with you, it’s possible to turn that no into referrals. Ask them for a referral, “I understand now is not the time to continue with us, who do you know that would benefit from the work we’ve done with you?”

Go ahead and start asking. I have it printed on all of my invoices, it’s a part of my regular interaction with clients and I do a direct ask when we’re done working together.

So, based on your experience with me, would you recommend me to others?

Omicle works with organizations to connect their operations to outcomes that serve brand, marketing, and revenue goals, contact us today to get started.

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