Sales and Sales Management Blog

January 23, 2010

Keep Your Client in the Loop After You Get the Referral

Congratulations, you’ve just received several referrals from one of your clients.  Great job!  But hold on, you’re work has just started.  No, I’m not talking about contacting and selling the referred prospect, I’m talking about keeping your client in the loop.

One of the primary reasons clients are hesitant to give referrals is that they are afraid of being embarrassed in front of a friend, relative, acquaintance or co-worker by you not performing as you should.  So, when they do give a referral, they have a vested interest in what’s going on between you and the prospect.  Not in the sense of whether or not the prospect purchases, but in how the prospect perceives you and the value being referred by the client.

When a client gives you a referral, you learn a number of things:

  1. The client will give referrals.  Obviously, you just received one or more.
  2. How well the client understands what you do.  The quality of the referral will let you know how well your client understands what you do and who is a good referral for you.  The better the referral, the more the client understands.  The poorer the referral, the more work you must do to educate them for future referrals (and future sales to them for that matter).
  3. How much they trust you.  Generally, the stronger the trust relationship between the client and the referred prospect, the more the client trusts you. 
  4. They have more referrals to give.  Seldom will a client give you all of the referrals they can make at one time.  If a client gives referrals, you can almost bet they have more to give—if you keep earning them.

How do you get those additional referrals?  Additional referrals are earned, just as the original referrals were earned.  You earn those additional referrals by:

  1. Giving your client the assurance that you’re trustworthy with referrals.  You must show through your actions that their trust in giving you a referral was well placed by making sure that the referred prospect has an exceptional experience with you.
  2. By keeping your client fully informed of everything that is occurring with the referred prospect.
  3. By continuing to deliver superior service to your client.

Does the above mean that you must perform perfectly with the referred prospect?  What if there was an honest mistake or miscommunication?  What if something out of your control happened during the course of the sale?  Will these incidents destroy any possibility of acquiring additional referrals?

No, not at all.

The keys to gaining additional referrals from a client are to treat the referred prospect exactly in the same manner you treated the client and to keep your client informed of what is transpiring between yourself and the referred prospect.

Your client gave you referrals because they understood that giving referrals was in their own best interests and because you earned them through the service, you gave them.  You must now demonstrate that same level of service for the referral they have given you.  They expect—actually demand—you perform at the same level—or higher—for those they refer to as you did for them.  That level of service you gave them was what demonstrated to them that they could trust with a referral.  Anything short of that and they will reevaluate whether you should be trusted with additional referrals.

That having been said, clients understand that mistakes, miscommunications, and problems arise in business.  A single issue during the course of the sale to a referred prospect, even a major issue, will not sever your ability to gain additional referrals from you client if you address and resolve the issue in an exceptional manner.

Clients don’t expect perfection, they expect exceptional service—both for themselves and for those they refer you to.  How well or poorly you handle the issues will be a major factor in determining your future refer-ability.

Keeping your client informed of the progress of the sale with the referred prospect reassures them that you’re doing your job—and that all is well.  It is also your source of informing them if there have been problems and how they were resolved. 

It is critical that you let your client know of issues involved with sales to prospects they have referred you to before the prospect has a chance to relate the incident.  You can relate the circumstances and the resolution in the most favorable light—the prospect may not.  This doesn’t mean that you can lie or gloss over it, just that you can give the background and the full resolution without the emotional involvement the prospect will have.  Of course, if you’ve done an exceptional job of resolving the issue, the tale told by the prospect should also be impressive.  However, you always want problems to be related to your client by you—you don’t want to get a phone call from the client asking what happened.

Keeping your client informed doesn’t mean bombarding them with emails, phone calls, and notes.  A simple “thank you for the referral” card immediately after receiving the referral and the occasional call or email will suffice.  The object is to keep them in the loop and to reassure them that their referral was well made for both you and the prospect.  Even better than the occasional call or email is to explicitly ask the client how and how often they would like to be informed of the progress.

Clients are interested in what’s going on with the referrals they make.  They want to know the prospect is being taken care of in the manner the client expected, and they enjoy knowing that they have provided you with a quality referral.  More importantly, they want to know that they haven’t embarrassed themselves in front of an acquaintance.

Simple actions will earn those additional referrals your clients have—you just have to earn them.



  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by GoodSelling: Keep Your Client in the Loop After You Get the Referral

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  5. This I think goes to even bigger problem, Paul, and that is not effectively following up on the referral at all. I have given referrals and the salesperson has not contacted the referral at all. I assumed they had trouble reaching the referred prospect, but why not call and ask me to make the call for them (which I would have gladly done)? To your point, by not following up with me, they are unlikely to receive future referrals; it is difficult to give a referral to a salesperson you know has poor follow up skills.

    Comment by S. Anthony Iannarino — January 24, 2010 @ 9:16 am | Reply

    • Anthony,

      I agree that not following up on a referral is a big issue. One of the things I train is that simply getting a name and phone number from a client is NOT getting a referral–it’s just getting a name and phone number. In order to have received a real referral, he seller must get a direct introduction to the referred prospect from the client. The introduction can be via letter, phone introduction, lunch meeting or whatever, but if there isn’t an introduction from the client, there’s no referral. Having to have an introduction accomplishes several things: 1) of course it creates a stronger initial impression with the referred prospect than just a call that references the client’s name; 2) if gives the referred prospects a stronger ‘push’ to set an appointment; and 3) it eliminates the possibility of the seller not following up on the referral-at least initially.

      Comment by Paul McCord — January 28, 2010 @ 10:37 am | Reply

  6. […] is usually overlooked: Keeping the referring client in the loop. On his blog, author Paul McCord writes how many salespeople, after getting a referral from a client, don’t think to update him or her on […]

    Pingback by Updates to Referring Clients Can Be Good For Business : Media Sales Today — January 29, 2010 @ 4:44 pm | Reply

  7. So true. Nothing builds more referrals like showing the referrer how well their referral worked out. Everyone likes to win, even if it is a friend sending you to a friend.

    Comment by Steve Waterhouse — February 4, 2010 @ 10:24 pm | Reply

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