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Getting Customer Referrals

Persuading your customers to refer you to their friends isn't as hard as you think.

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This story appears in the February 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

The most successful salespeople can trace their sales back in a direct line, one customer at a time. The first sale was made to John Doe, who then recommended the salesperson to Jane Smith, who then recommended him to Frank Jones and Sarah Collins and so on. Because your customers already know you and trust you, you're much more likely to get more business from them than to get business from somebody who's never bought anything from you before. It's also easier to get your customer--who already knows the kind of value you provide--to present you to a third party.

Although referrals are one of the most important selling tools you have for growing and expanding your business, they are almost always underused. Why are salespeople so reluctant to ask for referrals? There are several reasons:

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