the-wrong-time-to-ask-for-referralsIn many aspects of sales, timing is key. Knowing the right time to take the right action can mean the difference between success and failure. And in no element of selling is this more true than in the process of getting referrals.

Which is why it’s so surprising that so many salespeople ask for referrals at the wrong time. Because asking at the wrong time erodes trust and reduces the odds of receiving a referral to around zero.

When exactly is the wrong time to ask for referrals?

Before the sale is made.

It happens all the time. A salesperson sits down with a new prospect, they have a good conversation, and just before they wrap up the meeting, the salesperson asks the prospect for three or four other people they can talk to.


I don’t know you or trust you (or your company) enough yet to refer you to people. You wouldn’t recommend your friends go to a movie you haven’t seen or a restaurant you haven’t eaten at. So why would someone refer a salesperson or a company they haven’t actually done business with yet?

Worse, when you ask for referrals at this stage of the sales process, it reeks of desperation. Which causes prospects to trust you less, jeopardizing the sale you haven’t even closed yet.

When is the right time to ask for referrals? After the sale is made.

And not even immediately after. No, after that. After the customer has had the chance to experience the quality of your product or service. After they’ve seen that you follow through on your promises. After they’re sure they haven’t made a buying mistake.

Once your customer has experienced the value you provide, their trust level is at its highest. That’s when they’re comfortable connecting you with their friends, family, and colleagues. At that point, they want to give you referrals, because they want the people they know and care about to get the best possible products and service.

So don’t ask for referrals before you close the sale. Not only will you not get them, but you’ll endanger the sale you’re working on. Instead, wait until your prospect becomes a happy customer. That’s when your referral requests will be most welcome and most fruitful.