You can exponentially increase the number of referrals you get, dramatically increasing your client base, by doing one simple thing – asking for referrals.

You see, for whatever reason, many small business people don’t bother with referrals. Maybe they just assume their clients will pass along good words about them. Maybe they find asking for referrals uncomfortable. They hope to get referrals, of course, but they don’t overtly do anything about it. So when a job is done, they just walk away, leaving a good lead hanging.

How do you make sure these situations don’t happen – and you don’t waste opportunities? Here are some suggestions.

Ask your current contacts

Every one of your business contacts has the potential to connect you to dozens of other contacts. The relationships are out there, but they’ll likely remain out of reach unless you actively pursue them. It may never occur to your current contacts to broker an introduction. It’s up to you to put the idea in their heads.

Ask your clients – and make sure you thank them for it

Don’t feel sheepish about asking for referrals; there’s nothing pushy or smarmy about it. People won’t give you referrals unless you deserve them. In fact, getting a referral is the highest compliment you can receive.Whenever a customer compliments you, respond with a thank you, quickly followed by a referral request.When you begin working with a new customer, make referrals part of your initial agreement. “If I do a great job for you–and I will–you agree to give me X number of referrals.” Chances are, your customer will be impressed by your dedication and drive. Let your customers know you prize referrals, which you’ll earn by providing excellent quality products and services.

Offer a great product

A great product or service is clearly the number one thing you can have to spur referrals. When you have a product which is the answer to many peoples’ need, then those who have benefitted from your product cannot help but tell others about their good fortune – it’s human nature. And when a referral comes from an unsolicited recommendation, then, this is as good as being guaranteed satisfaction. Sell or offer products which others cannot help but rave about.

Give incredible customer service.

There are studies which show that a majority of customers would prefer to buy a less-than-stellar product when the seller gives excellent, unparalleled customer service (including after-sales service). The thought of dealing with pleasant and competent sales staff who treat a customer like royalty is golden to every disappointment-weary client. If, however, one offers a hard-to-equal product, but is sold by rude, incompetent and apathetic staff is a potential mine for trouble. Just imagine, when a problem ensues after the purchase, then the customer will surely dread the thought of dealing once again with the rude or unknowledgeable people from whom the product was bought.

Do something unexpected after the initial meeting

Even if your relationship with a customer has at some point hit a snag, the last impression you leave with is often the longest lasting. Like a restaurant that gives you a free box of chocolates at the end of the meal, provide something unexpected and unpaid for after your time together. For a service business, this could be a free add-on 30 minute consultation on a related issue; for a product-based business, this could be an inexpensive accessory you find that many customers need.