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Ask The Expert: When to Ask a Customer for a Referral?

Juan from Florida asked: "I understand that I should be asking more often, however, I find it hard to find the right timing. When is the best time to ask for a referral from a present customer?"

HershmanThat is a good question. During the application process is the best time to ask for referrals. But the next question is—why is that?

There is a concept called “The Law of Selective Perception.” Did you ever notice that when you see your car (make/model/color) on the road, you take note of it—especially when your car is new? You can’t notice every car, so your perception towards YOUR car is selectively high.

Normally, people don’t think about purchasing real estate every day or even refinancing. But when they are doing it, they are talking to other people about it. Whom did you use? What rate did you get? Do you like living there? Their perception is the highest when you speak to them and actually goes down as the process goes along.

But, it is hard to say: "Here is my rate, do you have a referral?"

Thus, the more value you deliver earlier in the process, the easier it is to get into position. Send them an article. Give them some good information. Set up a relationship they need (such as an insurance agent). When you call your present customers to give status, this call has value. The more value you deliver more rapidly with the application process, the easier it is to ask:

  • Who else could benefit from.....?
  • Who else can I help?

Note I use “focusing on helping” statements rather than “me” statements such as "referrals to me." A good sales person understands the importance of timing and jumps on the opportunity when the iron is hot. Let me give you an example. Perhaps the appraisal comes in and the value is several thousand over the price paid for the home. This is a good opportunity to call the borrower and let them know the good news. When they thank you for sharing the news, it becomes a good time to ask for a referral. There is not the same opportunity when you speak to the listing agent to let them know the appraisal is good.

On the other hand, when you call the listing agent after closing and thank them for the opportunity to serve them and they are happy with your service–including statuses you have given them–this is another good “timing” opportunity.

Finally, teaching sales people to ask does little good if they are uncomfortable with a statement such as: “Do you know anyone you can refer to me?” or “I make my living off of referrals.”

The problem is that these are “me” statements. “Refer to ME. I make MY living… For those who are in business to help others, this is a truly uncomfortable statement. Many I have coached prefer another approach. When you deliver value and the client responds by thanking you (again, timing), why not say: “Do you know anyone else who could use my help?” Perhaps you can add “My goal is to help as many as possible achieve their dream of homeownership.”

You can modify as you like, but the key is to focus on helping others and that is a more comfortable statement for most who have a reluctance to ask for referrals. 

Dave Hershman is Senior VP of Sales of Weichert Financial and the top author in the mortgage industry. Dave has published seven books, as well as hundreds of articles and is the founder of the OriginationPro Marketing System and Mortgage School–the online choice for expert mortgage learning and marketing content. His site is and he can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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