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  • Writer's pictureBen Paul

Don’t leave referrals to chance. 10 impactful ways to track and generate referrals.

Don’t leave referrals to chance. 10 impactful ways to track and generate referrals.

Ask most professional service practitioners where their work comes from, and they will tell you their networks and referrals. And this is largely true of most practices. And yet if you ask the next question around how they actively manage and seek out these referrals - in many cases, you are met with silence. The reality is that while referrals are one of the most common and most reliable ways of winning new work, most professionals simply leave it to chance.

Doing good work and providing an exceptional service to your clients will help generate these referrals but if you don’t ask for them or even track where they came from, you are most likely leaving money on the table. That’s why the most successful rainmakers or BD operatives within the professional services sector have active referral programmes or tactics and processes they put in place to ensure they maximise the referrals they receive.

It really pays to have a focus on generating referrals rather than simply sitting back at your desk, drinking coffee, and hoping those referrals will land.

To help you start taking control and generating more of these referrals, below are 10 actions you can follow.

The 10 ways to track and actively generate referrals.

1. Understand your own network of contacts.

The first stage is to understand who your contacts are, what they do, and how they can help their clients. If you know what they are trying to achieve, what types of work their business does and where their strengths lie that is essential for the next stage.

2. Create your own referral programme.

Most of us understand that reciprocity works. The more we give to others the more likely that they will give back to us. That means that you can start to build a network within your contacts where you all naturally look to refer work to each other. This has traditionally worked well across non-competing professional services as accountants, engineers, lawyers, architects, PMs and QS’s naturally refer work to each other.

However, if you can take this one step further, involving your clients and referring them work is hugely advantageous. Not only will they be far more likely to refer work to you, but because you are now actively helping grow their business and are adding real and tangible additional value, they are highly likely to remain a client for the long term.

3.  Ask at the right time.

During a matter, project or transaction is not typically the right time to ask. This may be a time when you feel you really need that next referral but asking now is unlikely to be well received by your client. Instead, look towards the end of a piece of work, when all has gone well and the project wrap has been completed, try to ask now. Something along the lines of “Since you felt that the project went well, I wondered if there is anyone else you think I should speak to, or that you would like to introduce me to?”

The other time to ask is when your client is perhaps going through a quiet period and needs some more work themselves, you just need to approach it in a very different way. Which leads to my next point.

4. Offer, don’t ask.

 The best way to get a referral is to offer to provide a referral to someone else. If you ask them “Is there anyone you would like me to refer you too?” they may have a list of your contacts in mind, but more likely they will want time to think and they will also suddenly want to reciprocate the offer. This means in asking them, they will most likely throw it back and immediately ask you.

Just remember to loop back after they have provided the referrals to you and ensure that you do provide some for them. This of course builds a stronger long-term relationship with them. It is also an essential part of building a referral programme.

5. Demonstrate how to provide good referrals

Not all referrals are equal. Some can be wooly or vague and some are to the wrong people. When you refer, it is a great idea to contact the person you are referring to via email and copy in the person you are referring them to. In the email, go beyond just introducing them, state why you are referring them to your contact and what you think they should meet up to discuss. This provides great context and means the referral is more likely to be a successful one.

Doing this with all your referrals means that those referring back to you are far more likely to follow a similar format.

6. Always thank people for their referrals

Everyone is busy now, and it can be easy to miss things. However, forgetting to thank people for the referrals they have given you is fatal. Going off and doing the work and not thanking your referrer makes you look selfish and is not the behaviour that will drive more referrals.


7. Track all referrals.

It is vital that you track all referrals, both those you give and those you receive. This not only allows you to analyse and understand where your best referrals come from, but you can also see gaps where you haven’t referred any work to someone for a long while and can start to think how you might change that.

It also pays to find out if the referral turned into work or not. Understanding that is beneficial to everyone as it means you’ll know what referrals are best for your contacts. Sharing this information for the referrals received will also have the same benefit for you, as your referrers will understand the best referrals to provide you with.

If you have a CRM, it is a great idea to use that for this purpose. Alternatively, you can use a spreadsheet or even this client action tracker.


8. Remind those you’ve referred work to.

If you have referred a few pieces of work to someone, check in, remind them. Aks them how those referrals went and if they were good ones for them. If they haven’t referred anything back to you, this subtle reminder will get them thinking and they will start to look at generating some referrals back in most cases.

Sharing this information is a much better approach than saying “I’ve given you lots of referrals, where are mine?!” That approach will not end well.


9.  Get and implement client feedback

However you get your client feedback, and it is essential that you do get feedback, what is even more important is that you listen and implement it. Don’t treat it as a tick box exercise to get the highest score, instead focus on any areas - even with exceptionally happy clients -where you can improve or tweak things. Then check in with your client and let them know you have made changes in line with their feedback.

And if you do a survey type of feedback, make sure it has a question around referrals in it, and whether they would be likely or willing to provide some.

10. Social proof creates wider referrals.

If you have great clients who enjoy working with you, beyond referrals they may be willing to provide case studies, testimonials, google reviews or even - and best of all for marketing purposes – video testimonials.

While this sits more in the marketing and lead generation space, having these will help with any RFP responses as well as creating great content and social proof which will help to generate more incoming referrals for those online searching for your services.



Referrals are a vital source of generating work and revenue for all professional services practitioners. Yet many people do leave this to chance and have no real idea of where their next referral will come from. To have a sustainable practice or business, following the 10 steps outlined above will provide a clearer picture and a stronger pipeline of incoming work.


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