How to approach a referral correctly

Written by: James White

Isn’t it thrilling when your client sends an email introducing you to someone else?  The excitement kicks into overdrive and our brain starts to think of all the opportunities that lie ahead. 

Whoa! Take a moment to reel it in, and let’s take this step by step.

Unfortunately, many sales professionals get referrals wrong, and they handle them badly.  In this blog I am going to share with you what you need to do to handle a referral correctly, and in a manner that will hopefully make the referral love you, and also make the referrer want to keep referring you.


If you want to make sure you win this referral, then don’t assume. Just because you have been referred doesn’t mean it’s a “done deal”.

Yes, the referral puts you in a great position, but sales is all about understanding. When you understand a prospect, and then build belief and trust with them, that’s when you get results.

When someone’s referred you, there is some belief and trust already there, but this doesn’t exclude the need to do more work in this area.

If you assume without asking great questions and getting to know the referred prospect, and think it will be an easy piece of business to win, it will cause you problems and cost you the opportunity.


So, you’ve been given a head-start in the business relationship with this introduction. What a fantastic opportunity! Please remember that (despite the introduction) prospects will make a judgment on you within 3 – 10 seconds of meeting you.

If your initial reaction is not great, if you don’t build a rapport in the right way, and if you don’t smile and engage with them in a friendly manner, then chances are that you’re not going to make that relationship happen.

Focus on building rapport. No one, I repeat, no one is going to do business with anyone just because they’ve been recommended to them. The prospect is still going to need to like you and your company.

We still need to focus on building rapport and ensure that we cement in their mind that we’re a really great person to work with. Focus on them and ask questions to get to know them. Don’t start assuming and being cocky and arrogant, otherwise you might find you lose out on a good opportunity.


When people refer me, one simple thing I do is ask questions and find out what they already know about me.

I was referred by someone the other day, and I started by asking them questions:

1. what they knew already about the company;
2. how they think we could help them with; and
3. how they thought it could be beneficial for them?

Do the sales work! Ask questions and get to know their situation.

Also, find out what the referrer has said. Have they or haven’t they gone into great detail about who you are and what you do? If they’ve simply just passed your information across, there is more sales work to be done! Or, you may find they have spent time going into great detail, and this can allow you to step in and shape the conversation in a different manner.

Don’t assume. Ask questions and find out what they know about you, it’s a great starting point once you build that initial rapport.


I know I say this in most sales blogs and videos I do! You have to dig into the problem/desire that the prospect has.

The only way we can do that is by asking great questions, and we ask questions in an empathetic tone. Use a tone that makes the other person want to open up to you. You need to ask questions like:

  • Tell me a bit more about your situation?
  • What made you want to have a meeting today?
  • What are some of the key things you want to resolve?
  • What are some of the trends you’re seeing at the moment in your industry?
  • What are some of the things that keep you awake at night?


You need to treat the meeting as a brand-new opportunity and use it to find out about the prospect, no matter who has referred you. If that person’s problem isn’t big enough, or their desire to change isn’t big enough, they’re not going to want to move forward with your service.

Ask the right questions and make sure you know and understand what’s going on. Once you do that, you’re going to hopefully set a path in place for you to go and win the business.


I know there are many people that have referred me, only to find that the price I’d offered to the referrer is different to what I charge now. Why? Because it’s been three years and my price has gone up!

You must know what budgets your prospect is working to, and if this is in line with those prices that they have been told. Great sales and business people still look to clarify and qualify the budgets by asking questions such as:

  • Tell me a bit more about the investment you’re looking to make in this area?
  • Tell me how much you’ve set aside to solve this problem?
  • Typically, this service ranges from £X to £Y. How does that feel for you?


You need to find out if they have got the money or are prepared to make the investment for the service. If you don’t find out about the money, then you could find yourself ghosted by them; or that it will never go anywhere and it’s a complete waste of your time.

Despite it being a referral, you still need to qualify them based upon the criteria that are right for you. If you do this, you will be in a good position to move forward and do a deal with the client.


Once you’ve been referred, you hopefully had some belief and trust already banked with that prospect. What you really want to make sure you do within your sales conversations with the prospect, is refer back to the referrer and how you were able to solve their problem.

You’ve been given an advantage by that referral because if they are friends (or get along well), they’re going to trust the referrer and think, “well, if they believe in the service and it has helped them, then it may work for me.”

They have already done some of the sales work for you, but it’s key that you also share other examples. Prospects will not want to just see that you’ve done work with one person or one company. They will want to see 2 or 3 examples.

So, refer back to that referrer to build trust and belief. Share stories where you’re able to. Stories bring everything to life and help your prospect believe that you can help them solve their problem.

If they are going to make an investment in you, then it’s critical that they believe and trust you.


I have seen so many situations where people say they are keen to do the referral, they get the business in, and then they can’t deliver to the quality or the levels the person wants.

When this happens, it makes it really awkward for the person who referred you, and it puts a strain on multiple relationships. You’re better off explaining why you’re unable to help them at the moment than to take on business that you can’t deliver.

If you take on business that you can’t delivery, you are only setting yourself up for failure and risking your business reputation. It’s only going to cause more problems down the line. Rather be honest and upfront. Don’t risk never being referred to anyone else again by putting yourself in a situation where you can’t delivery – that could potentially cost you thousands in the future.

Be careful and know what you can and can’t do. If you’re not able to do it, be honest about it.


It’s always a nice touch to say thank you to the person who referred you. I always drop a little box of cakes or a bottle of wine to say thank you and show that I appreciate them referring me.

It’s nice to show appreciation. It makes the other person feel great, and it will make the person want to keep referring you. As Maya Angelou said, “people will forget what you’ve said to them, but they never forget how you’ve made them feel”. So, make that person feel special and appreciated.

I hope this blog has given you some simple tips and ideas that you can implement on how to tackle a referral and approach a referral correctly.

If you want more sales tips, then head over to my YouTube channel where I release a video every Saturday.  There are already over a hundred free videos that you can implement in your business straight away!