By Marc Gordon

Regardless of how much advertising you do, your most effective and cost efficient source is from referrals. However, asking for referrals can be challenging. Many sales reps feel it makes them appear needy, desperate or imposing. So here are five ways to ask for referrals without making you – or your customer – feel uncomfortable.

1. Don’t be shy.

Just like you, chances are your clients depend on referrals, but may also be too shy to ask. If you come right out and start with something like, “As you know, in my business referrals are everything. If you know someone who you think could use my help, please pass my name along” in most cases they will say the same thing back to you.

2. Incentives for everyone.

Make current customers an offer where you will send both them and a person of their choosing a product sample, coupon or exclusive promotion. All they need to do is provide the contact information of the other person. You send your customer the gift, then reach out to the new person, letting them know of their surprise gift and who they can thank for it.

3. Say thanks.

You don’t need a referral program to show appreciation. Simply keep track where new customers come from. If someone mentions the name of one of your current customers, be sure to send them a card and small gift thanking them for the referral. Be sure to mention the name of the person they referred. As for the gift, gift cards for restaurants, movies or a pre-paid credit card is an easy option that will never get tossed in a drawer.

4. Refer others to your clients.

As a result of working with companies from various industries, people have come to know me as “the guy who knows a guy”. I send lots of business to my clients and they love me for it. Playing matchmaker will win you the loyalty of current customers, while encouraging them to return the favour.

5. Reciprocal relationships.

You don’t need to just rely on customers for referrals. Non-competing companies in your industry can be a great source. Think of electricians and plumbers, or accountants and lawyers. Sending clients to each other is not only good for business, but make you a trusted resource.


  1. Old news still applicable…

    Although this information is years old, I thought new agents (and some old ones, too) might benefit from a re-read. A special referring colleague back in the day, from Calgary liked this idea so much, he had special business cards designed and printed to take with him to the NAR convention every year following. Perhaps time to share again.

    • • •
    Networking is Everything!

    When you are so fortunate as to find a good “referral” Realtor, one to whom you can whisk away a few lines in an email and receive a prompt reply (within hours – not days) – be sure to stay in touch with this person. It may be months, or even years, before you have the opportunity of working together again, but in the interim KEEP THAT NAME in your active list. Send a note every once in awhile. No!!! No!!! No!!! No one is THAT busy that they cannot do this. You are building a life-line for your business. This IS your future. Trust me. If you don’t do this, you won’t have a future in real estate. The industry is just moving at a relentless rate, and at the best of times, it is time-consuming work just to be in this business.

    Just the same way that you ask your satisfied clients to refer your name to their friends, relatives and business associates, ask your “referral Realtor” to pass along your name to others in their offices.

    We have a special “Referrals for Life”program, that I implemented a few years ago. It is a two-part program which works like this.

    You send me a referral. The people buy or sell a house. You get paid. Now – two years go by. The phone rings. The buyers/sellers have been transferred, yet again. You already got paid your referral fee, right? so in the normal workings of the real estate business, you are history, right? WRONG! When you send me a referral, you get paid again, and again, and again… no matter how many times this buyer/seller moves, and uses my services.

    Part Two – now let’s say that you got my name from another Realtor in your office…since you didn’t have your own contact Realtor in our town. Here’s the “gift”… that agent receives a small cheque(or gift certificate)… one which equals 5% of the amount that the referring Realtor received… Let’s say the referring Realtor receives a cheque in the amount of $800. (Canadian) — now the colleague who gave over my name gets a cheque or gift certificate in the amount of $40. (Canadian).Now you say that’s not much? Well around here it equals the amount to buy a tank of gas, or lunch out with a friend or colleague. And, it is really just a small thank you token. But, believe me… Realtors REMEMBER!

    Since implementing this program, I have had other agents who use it also… One PERFECT example is a Net Friend and valued colleague about an hour’s drive from my service area, Rod Doris who serves the Bowmanville, Pickering areas in Ontario, Canada. I sent a buyer to Rod a couple of years ago. I got paid – promptly.

    A few months ago, I received a surprise referral cheque…. those people had just sold their home with Rod – the one that they had purchased through him a couple of years ago…. WOW!!! “Networking at its finest!”

    If anyone has business for that area, I highly recommend Rod. Email me privately for details on how to reach him.

    Now for Networking Plan Three:

    Below you will see a copy of one of my signature files. When someone visits our web site and fills in one of our forms… when we know a good “referral Realtor” in the appropriate area, this is the file that I send them. They reply… I forward the form info email request for help, and the job gets done. They get paid. We get paid. And the surfers are thrilled that someone took the time to answer their email… (often ’cause they have sent out up to a dozen requests and received NO REPLY).

    The time management of these systems is quite time-consuming… and you must be highly organized. Often this is not an area of the business where an assistant or back-up staff can handle the work. So it is one more hat to wear. It is important that you yourself get involved, and stay involved. I look at this as my retirement program. I have contact referral Realtors all over the world, as a result of being on the Net for only four years (at the time I wrote this originally). Sometimes these situations take several months to reach fulfillment… but in the end everyone is pleased.

    Here is the sig page:

    We have received a request for help regarding a Home Evaluation/Home Search from people interested in your area. These people were surfing the Net, and filled in one of our forms. Due to the nature of our site, and the depth into which surfers can travel, they often lose track of where they actually are on the web.

    So, we refer these would-be clients out to a local neighbourhood expert such as you.
    We have a 25% referral fee, like any other type of referral. Please confirm that this arrangement is ok with you. I hope you are able to help these people.

    All communication will be by email, and we clip a copy of your email acknowledgment verification to the government paperwork, rather than faxing copies back and forth.

    Kindly let me know, and I will forward the email, as received, to you immediately. Upon consummation of a transaction, we will require a copy of your office closing information sheet, in order that we may complete our office file.

    It is important that you let these people know that you are the “local representative” providing the information that they requested on the Net.

    Good Luck and please keep me posted.

    Carolyne in Canada


    Of course currently not being active means I can’t do referrals; but this is just an example of paying it forward. I did a minimum of 35 referrals each year on top of my regular business. It’s a good idea I created, and it works.

    Carolyne L ?

Leave a Reply