When do you ask for a referral?

The other day, during the “Around the Horn” portion of NN9, one of our round-tables, the problem of when to give a referral was posed.  The discussion was, as usual, lively and chock full of interesting and informative experiences.  Fred Gasior, a moving consultant and the principal of Team Relocation Managment offered that you ask when you get the final check for a project well done.  Mike Gansl, a consultant for small and mid-size businesses offered that, in past project based work that he has done for his company, it was helpful to create a criteria for success that the client signs off on.  You can state in the document that, should the criteria be met, the client will happily offer a referral.  He also offered that you can ask at the beginning of the relationship.  A simple statement like: “If I do the job to your satisfaction, will you be willing to give a referral?”  Andy Korbak, the Biz Dev manager for Cardlytics, a credit card linked marketing company, following Mike’s theme, suggested that the seed be planted early in any relationship so that the client will not be surprised when you ask.  This works with project-based work, but with on-going relationships, Tim Jennings, a financial and wealth advisor with Dynasty Advisors, pointed out that there were multiple opportunities to ask for referrals with long term clients.  In my business, face to face, business to business networking, I ask for the specific referrals am looking for at every meeting:  Attorneys, CPAs, etc.  That way there is no confusion; the members of Network!Network! become accustomed to my requests and often have someone in mind  that they think will benefit from the process when they come to the meeting. There is no right answer.  If you do good work and your clients appreciate the product or service you provide, ask away whenever it appears propitious.  Ask away.