Getting referrals from your business network, friends, family, current and past clients is the smartest way to grow your business. Getting referrals from prospects is often overlooked, but it could have a huge impact on your business.

Growing your book of business from clients and prospect referrals is an important aspect of a winning game plan. It is true that we never want to miss an opportunity to ask a happy client for a referral, but we should also try and ask our satisfied prospects. Since most don’t even try you can inch ahead of many just by trying.

When you reach out to a prospect you will unlikely close them during the first call. The first contact is more about building rapport with the prospect. You are beginning to build a relationship. For most B2B service providers, building the relationship can take months or even years before there is business to be had. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try and ask the prospect for referrals. If you are good at sales you are an excellent relationship builder.

Asking for a referral is more of an art than science. There is no one size fits all method for getting others to refer you to others. Your greatest challenge is building and maintaining credibility. Let’s face it giving a referral can be risky business. The person giving you the referral is putting his reputation on the line. You have to understand the person you are dealing with before you ask. Is the person analytical or emotional? Do they care about numbers and facts, or rely more on their feelings? We do not want to manipulate anyone, but we should know the best way to communicate with someone. The more you understand the person you are talking with the more effective you can be, asking for a referral.

Let's consider that you had an excellent phone call with a prospect. You know that you are building a relationship with the prospect and the phone call went well. Before you hang up, use this opportunity to ask for a referral. Ask if he knows of anyone that has been having similar challenges to his. Explain that you are interested in speaking with the person. You're not asking him to qualify and pre-sell the referral, you're simply asking if he knows of someone who has the symptoms. When he gives the referral, it's your job to determine if you can help the prospect.

Some professionals such as attorneys, accountants, consultants, and many others offer a free initial consultation. You can use your free initial meeting or phone call as an opportunity to ask for referrals. If you have done a good job building rapport there is a good a chance the you have increased your referral network. Even if the prospect is unable to provide a referral during the meeting they might help you at a later time. Consumer service companies, offering free estimates can use the same tactic.

If you do a good job helping your clients and ask for referrals, there is a good chance that you shall receive. Your customers will refer you because they received exceptional value through your service. Your prospects will refer you because you have managed to build rapport. Both will yield exceptional referrals.