How To Ask A Client For A Referral [+ Templates]


ClieOne of the most basic principles of customer success is using your products and services to create advocates for your company/product/brand. Having an army of happy customers can do much of this legwork for you.

The fact of the matter is that customers are influenced by word-of-mouth two to 10 times more than they are by paid media. Up to 50% of consumers insist that the recommendations of people they know are the primary drivers of their buying decisions. One excellent way to create the conditions for this purchasing motivation is with client referrals.

What Is a Client Referral?

Very simply, a client referral is a recommendation of your business to a potential new client by one of your existing clients. Client referrals are especially effective because a good relationship with your existing client lays the groundwork for a relationship with a new client.

Client referrals are highly effective when it comes to customer success. According to research at the Wharton School of Business, a referred customer can have at least twice the lifetime value of a non-referred customer.

How Can Customer Success Teams Nurture Client Referrals?

Your company’s customer success team can nurture client referrals by first identifying clients who represent outstanding referral opportunities, emailing them, asking them for referrals directly, and setting up a referral program that incentivizes and rewards them for providing such referrals.

How To Identify Client Referral Opportunities

By knowing which of your clients are the most satisfied, you can prioritize them in your efforts to gain referrals. The way to do this is by first identifying client advocates and then communicating and following up with them.

Identify Your Best Client Advocates

Identifying clients who will be excellent customer advocates for you is not challenging. One way to do this is by assigning a Net Promoter Score (NPS) to all your customers. An NPS is a measurement of customer loyalty that you can use to gauge how satisfied a customer is with your company’s products or services. You can assign an NPS by sending a single-question survey to your customers that ask them, “How likely would you be to recommend our [Service/Product/Company] to a friend or colleague?” Leave space for additional comments.

Respondents then provide a numerical answer on a scale of 1 (least likely to recommend) to 10 (most likely to recommend). Any respondents who wrote 0 to 6 should be considered “Detractors” of your company, brand, service, or product and set aside. Respondents who wrote 7 or 8 should be considered “Passive,” while respondents who provided a 9 or 10 answer should be considered “Promoters.”

 Communicate and Follow-Up With Promoters

Your promoters are your best advocates. They’re the ones who took the time to give you an ideal NPS response. They’re the people most likely to provide client referrals. Essentially, they’ve raised their hands and said, “I’m willing to recommend you to my friends.”

Once you’ve defined and identified your promoters, develop a plan for following up and making it easy for them to refer your product, service, or company to their professional network.

Simply sending out an NPS survey isn’t enough. You also need to follow up with your potential customer advocates and keep the positive momentum going; there’s no point in getting 9 or 10 NPS numbers and not taking advantage of them. You need to mobilize these promoters via engagement.

If you know someone at your firm who handles customer marketing or new business development, have them ask your promoters if they would be interested in referring you to their network.

The key is to make it natural for your promoters to refer you to their coworkers, business contacts, friends, and family. Recommendations and referrals from existing customers will always outperform impersonal social media campaigns and “Share” buttons.

Use Online Testimonials and Reviews

People are more likely to trust brands when they see social proof of your company’s expertise and quality products. Testimonials and reviews are great ways to get that social proof.

One easy way to get a customer testimonial is by turning a comment or feedback from a survey (including an NPS survey) into a testimonial. First, find a comment or feedback from a survey that would make an ideal testimonial. Email the survey respondent in question, and ask them for permission to use their feedback or comment on your company website.

How to Ask for a Client Referral: 3 Examples

Once you’ve identified ideal customer advocates, there are three simple ways you can ask them for referrals.

1. Write a Referral Email

One of the easiest ways to ask an existing client for a referral is by writing a referral email. But if you choose to do this, bear in mind a few best practices:

  • Personalize Your Email — Remember who you’re sending your email to, and customize it accordingly.
  • Be Concise and Specific — Most people get too many emails. Get straight to the point, and be specific with your questions.
  • Proofread Your Email — Make sure you get details like the recipient’s name correct; double-check your email before you send it.
  • Use a Friendly Voice — Keep your tone light and friendly. You’re asking for a favor, so be polite, and try not to sound too demanding.
  • Emphasize Your Mutual Connections — Do you have mutual connections with your existing client? Any commonalities will add trust to your interactions.
  • Send Your Email at the Right Time — Send your email at a time of day and day of the week when you think it will be read and not skipped or skimmed over.
  • Include the Right Content — Include the right incentive and call to action (CTA) to motivate your client to give you a referral. This is the way to build a valuable referral network.

Here’s a referral email template you can use to write your own customer referral emails:

Hello [Customer Name],

I’m glad to hear you’re satisfied with the results of your work with [Your Company Name] so far. I knew we could assist, and I’m happy you’re seeing the results so quickly.

Since things are going so well, I was wondering if you have friends or colleagues at similar firms who could benefit from our [Product or Service]. I’d love to help them realize similar success.


[Your Name]

2. Directly Ask the Client for a Referral

Another way to get a referral is to ask a client for one directly. Of course, you want to choose existing clients who have been happiest with your services and have gained the most value from them. A great time to ask for a referral is right before the end of a project you’ve been performing well on.

Here’s a template script you could use in a conversation with a client to ask for a referral:

Customer Success Manager: “I’m glad your organization has been happy with our work so far. Have you ever considered sharing your sentiments with a review board, friends, or colleagues?”

Customer: “I hadn’t considered it, honestly.”

CSM: “Is this something you’d be interested in doing? There are a number of ways to share your thoughts about our company.”

Customer: “Yes, that is something we would consider. We’ve been delighted with the quality of the services we’ve been receiving.”

CSM: “Excellent! Perhaps your vendors or clients could use this same quality service that we can provide. What do you think about that?”

Customer: “Well, we have a few vendors who might want to use your services.”

CSM: “Out of all those vendors, do you have one or two favorites? Do you have a good relationship with them?”

Customer: “Yes, I can think of several we have great relationships with.”

CSM: “And are these vendors trying to increase their business profitability?” 

Customer: “Yes, a few of them definitely are.”

CSM: “This sounds like a great opportunity! If you were to call them or email them about your experiences with our organization, they might be interested in working with us?”

If the customer believes their vendors are open to this opportunity, you can follow up with an email addressed to the vendors in question.

3. Create a Referral Program

Once you’re familiar with the process of asking for referrals, you can formalize it by creating a referral program. A referral program is a word-of-mouth marketing method that incentivizes existing customers to advocate for your company.

To create a referral program, you can use social media channels to build buttons and links that let existing customers share messages and credits or other tokens of value with their contacts, giving those people an incentive to try your services. And when a new contact takes up the offer, you can reward your existing contact for the referral.

For instance, a Facebook message from the Lyft ride-sharing service might tell an existing customer that they can “Give $20 in ride credits to friends who have never tried Lyft before” by clicking a link to send Lyft ride credits.

Try being creative, and come up with referral marketing materials to promote your own referral program.

Five Extra Tips That Will Keep Client Referrals Coming

Here are five additional tips to keep your client referrals coming:

  1. Prioritize Your Client Experience — Start by providing exceptional value to your clients in the first place and making them feel important. Going above and beyond for clients will make a significant difference when you ask for a referral.
  2. Personalize Your Communications — Make sure you personalize your referral requests. You can do this by reminding your clients of their positive experiences when interacting with you and using your products or services.
  3. Create Incentives for Giving a Referral — Incentivize referrals by recognizing clients for their referral actions, offering them discounts, and giving them gift cards.
  4. Follow-Up And Stay In Touch — Follow up with your clients to see if they continue to enjoy your services, and stay in touch about their needs. Engage with your customers by staying active on social media, especially LinkedIn.
  5. Thank Your Referral Resources — Send a Thank You card or email to thank your client for all referrals. You can use this “Thank You For The Referral” template as an example:

Dear [Referral Source Name],

Thank you for referring [Referred Client] to me for [Your Product or Service Offering]. [Referral Client] is a big organization, and I appreciate your vote of confidence in me by referring them to [Your Company Name]. We’re going to work together on [Project/Services/Initiative] over the next few months, and hopefully, [Your Product or Service Offering] will be as helpful to them as it has been for you.

To express my appreciation, here is a promo code for 10% off on your next purchase from us.

Thanks again for connecting me to [Referral Name], and I look forward to speaking with you again soon.

Kind regards,

[Your Name]

Earn More Client Referrals with Totango

Client referrals are typically nurtured by customer success professionals; the former is a tool of the latter. But client referrals are just one method to achieve organizational objectives. You can readily explore others using the customer success solution Totango.

Totango enables your business to grow revenue, reduce churn, drive product/service adoption, and scale your customer success. Totango is an ideal way to help your company achieve its business goals. Watch one of Totango’s live demos, and see what it can do for you.

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