When Heather runs her Networking for Life workshop with accountants and lawyers she points out to her delegates that the people they trained with and worked with early in their careers are probably the best place to get referrals from. However, so many people struggle to ask these people for referrals – probably because in many cases they have become personal friends. Have you ever felt awkward, or wondered how to ask for referrals from friends? Is it worse (or better?) if your friends are  best placed to give you referrals?

This is a question I have been puzzling for a while as I was recently asked by an excellent lawyer with many business contacts who had become friends over time. He felt like he was stuck between a rock and a hard place, he was expected to get referrals; but didn’t know how to ask for referrals from friends without feeling bad.

After all you don’t want to jeopardise a friendship just for the sake of a referral.

What to consider when deciding how to ask for referrals from friends

How to ask for referrals from friends may be easier if you consider:

  • Assessing or re-assessing the line between friend and colleague.
  • Being in the position to ask for referrals, without it seeming mercenary
  • Prioritising, so that you focus on those most likely to help.

Need more referrals? Then download our free short guide (email required) with over 50 tried and tested tips to generate more referrals. 

The boundary between friend and colleague

Like you, I wouldn’t want to upset my friends by pestering them, in case it damaged the friendship. The point where you draw the line is a personal decision. At the end of the day, each of us have to make a judgement about who we will, and won’t ask.

However, have you noticed that more people veer on the side of not asking, even though the other person would be happy if they did? Let’s be honest, most of our good friends do want to help us. It’s interesting that we are often more prepared to ask for help from our friends when we need a new job, but more reluctant when we want an introduction or referral from them.

The reticence is often in the mind of the requester, rather than the friend. If the friendship has developed from a business connection, there’s a business relationship which is normally more than happy to help with referrals. How to ask for referrals from business colleagues might be easier than asking friends. Maybe reminding yourself that they’re originally business colleagues will help.

Asking, without being mercenary

Sometimes your partners seem to suggest that all you need to do is to pick up the phone and ask your friend for a referral. To pick up the phone and ask may not be the best option. To develop the relationship, so that you can turn chit chat into business chat and then asking is a better option. There are a couple of things that often help:

  • Start talking more regularly
  • Always be on the lookout for ways in which you can help them
  • Look out for referrals for them
  • Introduce them to people in your network who they would benefit from meeting

Focus and maintenance of the right relationships

I’ve worked with several people on the Excedia 5 level relationship model. The word that comes back very often is focus. It helps people to focus on the important and “likely to pay off” relationships.

guide to building personal networking strategy 200pxDownload our free guide (from our career kitbag) to building your personal networking strategy and relationship plan template to help you focus on and maintain the right relationships in your network.

How do you go about asking friends for referrals, do you always feel comfortable?




About Jon Baker:

Jon BakerJon Baker is a Business Coach, Sales Trainer and Experienced Public Speaker who specialises in working with partners and potential partners from small firms – typically up to 10 partner practices. He helps the professionals with 5 to 50 staff improve their performance and grow their firm, sustainably, profitably and whilst enjoying the experience.

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