Whatchu talkin' ‘bout Jennifer? You can't be serious!
Yes, I am.
If you're asking the question "What is the best way to ask for referrals?" that tells me that something about doing it bothers you.
And if it bothers you, don't do it. Your discomfort will be crystal clear to the person you're asking, which is probably worse than not asking at all.
(If you don't mind asking for referrals, it probably comes naturally to you. Keep up the good work and ignore the rest of this blog.)
Do YOU like being asked for referrals? I don't.
When a friend asks me to refer business to her, I feel uncomfortable. What was five minutes ago a friendship suddenly feels like an obligation. If she asks me twice, our friendship may very well be in danger. I don't want to have to explain to her why I haven't referred anyone to her lately (or ever). I don't want to listen to her sales pitch... again. And, frankly, if I haven't referred anyone her way, there may be a reason. But I'd hate to lose a friendship over it.
When a business professional asks me for referrals, it lowers my respect for them a notch. Right or wrong, I assume everyone is as successful as they wanna be. So when I receive a marketing letter from my insurance agent or my accountant asking for referrals, I suddenly question their level of success... and therefore, just a teeny bit, their competence. Where five minutes ago, I perceived them to be a prosperous, crazy-busy professional... now they're a ... salesperson. Ick.
Don't get me wrong, I love to refer. I'm a referring madwoman when I find someone I believe in. You don't have to ask me to refer, I'm all over it! Aren't you the same way? If you have the world's best hairdresser, dog trainer, chiropractor - don't you tell everyone you know? Do these people have to constantly ask you for your referrals?
Here's a better way.
Be a friend first. If not a friend, then a reasonably competent human being. Be happy, excited and enthusiastic. Act as if your career is everything you always dreamed of. Practice saying "I'm a real estate agent and it's the coolest job in the world!" with a huge smile on your face. Or how about "I had no idea how much I would enjoy selling real estate, I'm having a blast!" Followed up by a sincere "How are YOU doing?"
To ensure that every potential referrer in your life knows you're a reasonably competent human being, make sure your self-promotion materials are professional and error-free. Return phone calls promptly, even social phone calls. Show up on time for appointments and lunch dates. Do what you say you're going to do, when you say you're going to do it. No excuses. Dress appropriately. Watch your language.
It really is that simple.