6 Business Development Referral Strategies

6 Business Development Referral Strategies To Get, Well, You Know

Screen Shot 2017-02-18 at 11.17.05 AMMost of the advertising agencies that take me up on my Corleone Offer usually tell me that the majority of their client base growth comes from a positive client, friends, and family business development referral.

Perfect! A referral is a VERY hot lead.

However, for way too many agencies, referrals are a default sales tool. They get most of their new clients via referrals because they are not doing other forms of hard core sales. Simply put, they do not have a tight manageable sales plan that includes both in and outbound marketing.

But, the issue of the paucity of sound agency sales plans is another story. This post is all about how to goose referrals so you get all of the ones your agency deserves.

The secret? Be proactive… Ask and ye shall receive.

Referral Strategies

A key to having a robust referral strategy is to make sure that your current clients are aware that you actually want referrals. Referrals from happy customers are one of best ways that B2B companies generate new business. OK, this isn’t a huge surprise. However, what is surprising how few companies have a dedicated strategy for fostering these valuable personal hand-offs.

4 Obvious, Yet Wonderful Benefits Of A Referral

A referral is a white-hot lead. If we assume that your happy customers are savvy enough to recommend you to the right potential customer then you are well on your way to establishing a valuable conversation and a new business win.

The closing ratio of referrals is higher (it has been reported that the closing-ratio of a referral is 6 times greater than an unqualified lead.)

For the obvious reason that a referred prospect is generally a very motivated buyer, the referral-generated sales cycle can be as much as 75% shorter.

A referral strategy is cost-effective and will reduce your sales expenditures – free is good. Free is a great place to start.

6 Effective ‘Active’ Referral Strategies

I’ve generated referrals from existing clients and customers using the following set of strategies. Given the fact that you are talking to happy customers or friends, these strategies will be a very efficient use of your “sales” effort.

  1. Start with an objective. Know what increase in referrals you are targeting and what type of clients you want. Unqualified referrals are not a good thing.
  2. Determine which of your clients or friends, these could be people you talk with or people you stay in touch with on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are contacts that might know the people or businesses on your prospect list. Do the research to help your clients help you.
  3. Go ahead… ask for referrals. Some referrals come because your client or buddy is specifically asked if they know of a good company in a your business category. Some come because your customers love you so much they actively ‘sell’ you. Some need to be stimulated to think about how to help you. It’s OK to ask. It is also wise to let them know what type of referral you are looking for. Take away as much guess work as you can. Make it easy for them to refer you. But, do not overdo it. Clearly, you do not what your clients to feel burdened.
  4. However, before you ask, make sure that your current clients are motivated to refer your service or products. I’ve written about how to determine which of your clients might be referral magnets. Check out: Is Your Agency Loved?
  5. You might need a bit of time to massage your clients through the delivery of unexpected services ahead of directly asking for their help. As they say, give and ye shall receive.
  6. A big must. If you get a referral, make sure that you keep the referrer informed about your conversations and any progress. Don’t forget to say thank you. If you actually win new business, you might want to consider sending a gift as follow-up.

Referrals are nice, but one eventually runs out of friends with friends. How to deal with this unfortunate fact? Have a broader sales plan.


  1. This is something we were thinking of doing soon, to be honest. Although, we were thinking of potentially sweetening the deal for the current clients by incentivising it somehow, perhaps a small discount on their current services for a month. Maybe it’s worth us using that if they aren’t up for referring leads from the get go. Food for thought!

  2. Ha…. Just saw this. Thank you. Yes, why not insentify.

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