The 5 Steps You Need to Generate Referrals

March 18, 2019

by Stacey Brown Randall

The holy grail of business is bringing in new clients.

And the holy grail of sales is generating those new clients by referrals.

Because it is by far the easiest way to grow your business.

Referrals are so valuable because the prospective new client who is referred knows they have a problem that needs to be solved. They trust you to be the one to solve their problem – even before meeting you – because they trust the person who connected them to you. And because they trust you, they are less price sensitive and value you more.

You may have come to believe through experience that referrals just happen, are sporadic, and not consistent. Or you may have been told to generate referrals you have to ask for them constantly or use a referral gimmick* to generate referrals.

(*A referral gimmick is typically something you create, like a book or PDF guide, that you give to others to hand out so when they pass along your book (your gimmick), they are effectively recommending you.)

You don’t need a referral gimmick.

And you don’t have to ask.

But referrals don’t just happen.

Based on the results of hundreds of my Growth By Referrals students and my own experience and success, you just need to know the 5 steps to follow to generate referrals without asking, without a gimmick, or without manipulation.

The 5 steps to generate referrals are:

  1. Identify who refers you (or should be referring you)
  2. Follow an immediate thank you process
  3. Create an outreach plan to deliver a referral experience
  4. Weave in critical language to plant referral seeds
  5. Systematize the plan and measure results

Step 1: Identify who refers you (or should be referring you)

If you want to more – or any – referrals, it stars with knowing who refers you. The easiest place to start is by looking at where your clients – current or past – came from. Meaning, how did your clients find out about you? What was the source?

The source is how the client first heard about you. There are many different types of sources including meeting you at a networking event, finding you in an online search, receiving direct mail, answering a cold call and by far the best source is a referral from someone.

Maybe you have a CRM (client relationship management database) where you track this information with laser precision. Awesome. You, my friend, are in the minority. The majority of business owners will need to pull a list of clients, sit down with that list and try to remember where the client came from.

Yeah, there is some work involved.

Step 2: Follow an immediate thank you process

This is a simple step in the process, but important. When you receive a referral, it is important you send an immediate handwritten thank you. Because why should your referral sources send you more referrals if you can’t properly thank them for the one they just sent you?

Yes, this means I need you to write a note every time you receive a referral.

So, you will need plenty of thank you cards and stamps on hand and a way to track each referral received. Tracking the referral can be done in your CRM or just a document where you capture some basic information.

Step 3: Create an outreach plan to deliver a referral experience

A referral experience is a planned approach to connect with your referral sources in an ongoing way to show gratitude for them referring us. It has to be planned correctly and executed on consistently each year.

The outreach you do needs to be memorable and meaningful and keep you top of mind, so it has impact. Those keep-in-touch emails, calls or texts you do every 30-days to check-in, isn’t going to cut it.

But don’t get overwhelmed thinking a referral generating plan needs a big budget – in fact you can build your plan on shoestring budget which makes generating referrals possible for any size business.

Step 4: Weave in the critical language to plant referral seeds

Once you have your referral outreach plan, you then need to make sure you are using the right language, so you never ask for referrals. The secret ingredient for making referrals happen is to weave in language that plants referral seeds. With the right kind of referral seeds, you never need to ask for a referral.

There are many different types of referral seeds to plant including:

  • What you say in a thank you card
  • The language you use with your referral source outreach
  • How to turn an introduction into a referral
  • What you say during your first meeting with the person who was referred to you

Step 5: Systematize the plan and measure results

If step #3 – the referral outreach plan – is the what you do, then this step is how you make it happen.

Your referral sources need an experience but you – as a business owner who is pressed for time – you need a process.

A process you can follow so your referral generating plan is executed on. It is within the execution of the plan, consistently, year over year that we find real sustainable success. The systematization portion of the plan looks at what you can delegate, what you must do yourself and what can be triggered to happen automatically.

Following these 5 steps allows you to put the right focus on generating referrals so you never have to ask, don’t use manipulation and grow your business with more ease and less stress.

Stacey Brown Randall

Stacey Brown Randall is a member of the business failure club, a contrarian on how to generate referrals and a supporter of the entrepreneurial dream. She is a three-time entrepreneur, author of Generating Business Referrals Without Asking, and host of the Roadmap to Grow Your Business podcast. Stacey is the wife of one and mom of three. You can find her at

[NOTE: This post is pulled from the article, 5 Steps to Generate Referrals. The full article can be found at]