How To Ask For A Referral/Recommendation

The easiest (and cheapest) way to win work is to ask for a business referral, but few business owners do it. 

If you want more referrals/recommendations, then keep reading. This article covers simple and effective processes to get more recommendations and increase the number of paid jobs without too much extra effort on your part.

In this article, I’ll use the word recommendation to cover both recommendations and referrals. Find out why we use those words interchangeably to make it easier for your client and network.

Two Key Parts to Every Recommendation

Part 1 – Deliver on time, on budget, plus a little more:

If you go to a restaurant and have a “good” time, you probably won’t talk to friends and family about it anytime soon. Nobody recommends “good” because it’s not enough in today’s world.

But if the restaurant “gives” a little more than you expect, such as anticipating when you need another bottle of wine, or remembering you from a previous visit, and tailoring your experience, they turn your experience from “good” to “great.” Then you are much more likely to raise their name in conversation. 

You must get Part 1 right before moving on to Part 2. How can you expect someone to recommend you if your work didn’t blow them away? They might know someone better to recommend.

Read more about how to get more recommendations in ‘How to Get More Recommendations/Referrals.’

Part 2 – Know exactly what you’re asking for:

When you ask for a recommendation, you must tell that person EXACTLY what you are looking for in a recommendation, otherwise, they won’t know who to recommend. Narrow it down for them by outlining your target market. For example, “I’m looking for businesses in trades and construction with 2+ people on the team.”

If you’re not specific about the recommendations you’re asking for, three things can happen:

  1. The best case scenario is the person you’re asking for a recommendation knows your target market and makes an appropriate recommendation. Unfortunately, this is unlikely.
  1. Because they don’t know your ideal target market, they give you the name of someone NOT in that group. E.g. a one-man band or someone not in the industry.
  1. The most likely thing to happen is that you don’t get a recommendation because you’re making it too difficult for someone to help you.

How To Get A Business Referral

You can get consistent, high-quality recommendations by setting up a structured process; it doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s best to keep it simple and follow it regularly. 

Creating a structured process will prevent you from getting excited about asking for recommendations and then forgetting about them a few weeks later.

A simple process can’t be ignored. You only have to spend some time setting up and completing the process. Imagine the ROI on that time investment!

Initially, your process may focus on improving your product – on time, on budget, and a little more.

If you have an embedded structure, consider the next thing you can do to improve it. You could set up a time each week to call your network, make the recommendations process easier for your client, add another strategy to increase referral numbers, etc.

Here are a few places where you can implement a simple recommendations process in your business: 

Post Work Client Check-Ins

Do you have a follow-up procedure after you’ve completed work to check in on your customer? This is the perfect opportunity to add ‘ask for a recommendation’ to a process you already have. It doesn’t need to be formal. A simple “Do you know anyone interested in receiving the same service?” is sufficient.

Map Your Network

Your network is your net worth! Map your network to create a list of people you can contact. Think back to past jobs, university, school, friends, partners, suppliers, your top ten past clients who love you, etc.

Give them a ring and ask if they know someone who needs what you offer. If they can’t think of anyone, ask if it’s okay to call them back in a few weeks to see if they come across someone in the meantime.

Ask For Reviews

Most people look at past client reviews before getting in touch with a tradie, so building your social proof is a powerful tool to book more work. Google reviews are great because they’re easier to find and more visible than on your website or social media platforms.

With that said, ask for Google reviews at the end of every job. There are a few ways to do this: on invoices, at the bottom of emails, on leaflets, and on the phone.

Go one step further and reduce the barrier to getting a review by giving instructions to make it easier AND giving them the ability to answer simple questions. People often don’t know what to say and delay writing a review until they figure out what to write. After a time, they’ll forget to return to it. Make it easier by giving them simple questions to answer, such as ‘How good was our service?’, ‘What did you like best?’ and ‘How prompt was our service?’.

Getting your team onboard

Train your team to ask customers for recommendations. Help them understand the extra value you provide on jobs to be worthy of a recommendation, and ensure they know what they’re asking for (ideal client and ideal job) in a recommendation.

You could make this a competition or team incentive – e.g. whoever gets the most recommendations in a quarter wins something cool.

Get rid of the head trash

Some people feel awkward asking for recommendations because they worry about what someone will think. Will they think you’re not doing well? Will they find you pushy or sales-y? Will they be unhappy to recommend competitors (if you’re in the B2B space?)

If you’re asking yourself these questions, it’s your head trash-talking! Nobody gets offended when you ask them if they know someone who could be in the market for your offer. You don’t, so why would they?

Every time these questions stop you from taking the next step, tell yourself this is head trash, and push past it. 

Start Asking For Business Referral Today

The best way to get better at asking for recommendations is simply to start. It’s not about being 100% perfect right away or even making an immediate 20% improvement. Start with small steps that lead to big results over time. 

The important shift is actively searching for work VS waiting for work to come to you. You will get better at asking over time because you’ll learn the best way to ask and know what you’re asking for.

Think about it this way – having one conversation daily is 220 across a year. If you have a 5% conversion rate, that’s 11 extra jobs! Depending on your job’s worth, that could be 5, if not 6, figures worth of work EXTRA every year.
If you’re looking for more insights into how to grow your trades and construction business from people who’ve been in the industry for over 20 years, built their own successful businesses and helped hundreds of tradies grow theirs, join our Trades and Construction Mastermind Facebook Group.


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