How to Ask for a Customer Reference The Right Way

Dragan Berak
Co-Founder at Simple Testimonial
Last Updated: 
June 8, 2024
In This Article

Customer references can be a crucial element in convincing potential clients of your company's credibility and the quality of your products or services.

Obtaining a powerful customer reference may seem challenging, especially for businesses that are new to the market or have not yet gained widespread recognition.

There are strategic ways to approach your customers and ask for their endorsement, which can bolster your company's reputation and help you close deals more effectively.

Let's take a closer look at how to ask for a customer reference the right way, making the process for all parties involved.

The Importance of Customer References

Customer references play a crucial role in the sales process as they help build trust and credibility between a potential buyer and a business. By providing a positive feedback or story about a product or service, a satisfied customer can influence others to choose that same company, thereby boosting sales and strengthening the overall customer base.

One of the main reasons why customer references are valuable is their ability to demonstrate the real-life application and effectiveness of a product or service. When potential buyers hear about the positive experiences of others, they can better visualize how the product or service could benefit them. This not only enhances their understanding but also gives them confidence in making an informed decision.

In the world of sales, building and maintaining strong relationships is key. Customer references serve as a testament to the quality of a company's relationship with its customers. Providing references shows that a company values their customers' opinions and are willing to share their success stories to new prospects.

Customer references can also help the company to retain current customers, as they feel valued and part of the ongoing journey of the business.

How to Identify Suitable Customer References

When seeking a customer reference, it's important to identify the right individuals who can vouch for your products or services. A well-selected reference can greatly impact a prospect's decision-making process and help build credibility for your brand.

1. Tap Into Your Network

Tap into your existing customer network and look for those who have experienced success with your product or service. These satisfied clients are more likely to speak positively about your offering and share their achievement stories.

Providing tangible results can effectively demonstrate the benefits of your product or service to prospects.

2. Relevance Matters

Consider the relevance of the reference to the prospect. Aim to find customer references who belong to the same industry, share similar use cases, or have faced comparable challenges as your prospect.

This way, the reference is more likely to resonate with the prospect and emphasize the practical application of your service.

3. Diversify

Establishing a diverse group of customer references is also crucial. This gives you options to cater to different industry verticals and use cases, showcasing your product's versatility. Build a mix of references comprising various company sizes, industries, and geographies to provide a comprehensive picture of your offering to potential clients.

Keep in mind that maintaining positive relationships with your customer references is essential.

Regularly check in with them to ensure they are still willing to serve as a reference, and try to offer a small token of appreciation for their continued support.

How to Reach Out and Request a Reference

When asking for a customer reference, timing and approach are essential.

A confident, knowledgeable, and clear tone in your initial email is crucial to convey your request effectively. Make sure to personalize the email and keep it simple, neutral, and concise.

1. Set The Stage

First, establish the context by mentioning your business relationship and any positive experiences you shared. This helps to set the stage for the request and highlights the value your customer has received from your product or service.

Acknowledge that you understand the potential awkwardness of requesting a reference and reassure them that they have complete control over their response. Don't hesitate to express your appreciation for their time and consideration.

2. Make The Ask

After addressing any discomfort, move on to the core of the request. Create a clear call-to-action (CTA) that outlines the specific reference format you desire, whether it's a testimonial, case study, video interview, or phone call with a potential client. Be sure to provide guidance on what topics the customer may cover, setting the expectations, and making it easy for them to contribute effectively.

3. Open Communication

Keep the communication channels open by providing your contact information and inviting them to reach out for any queries or clarifications. This encourages a sense of partnership in the process and shows that you value their input and are available to support them throughout the reference process.

Crafting the Your Customer Reference Ask (Example)

When asking for a customer reference, it's crucial to craft the right message that reflects a confident, knowledgeable, and clear tone.

Here's a customer reference example ask that we like to use:

Here's a sample email template that incorporates these recommendations:

Subject: [Name], could we borrow a smidge of your awesomeness?
Hey [Customer's Name]!
I hope this email finds you in the best of spirits!
I wanted to reach out because we've had the absolute pleasure of working with you, and your positive vibes have been the cherry on top of our sundae of customer experiences.
Seriously, your feedback and support have meant the world to us.Here's the deal: we're hoping to sprinkle some of your magic into the world by asking for a reference. We're building our testimonial collection, and we can't think of anyone better to feature than you!
Your words have the power to inspire others and guide them to the same fantastic experience you've had with us.Would you be up for being our superstar reference? It won't take much of your time, just a few kind words from your heart about your experience with us.
Your stamp of approval could make someone's day and help them take the leap with us.If you're on board (fingers crossed ), just hit reply and let us know, and we'll take care of the rest. Of course, if you need anything from us in return, just say the word!Thanks a ton for considering this favor.
Sending high-fives and virtual confetti your way,
[Your Name]

Setting Expectations and Building Trust

When asking for a customer reference, it is crucial to set expectations and build trust between you and the customer. By doing so, you create an opportunity for a positive and productive interaction that can help both parties achieve their goals.

One way to build trust is through exceptional customer service. Providing timely, accurate, and relevant information in a professional manner can improve the customer's perception of your company. Furthermore, maintaining a consistent level of service throughout the customer's journey is essential to fostering trust.

Personalization plays a key role in effectively engaging with customers and building rapport. By tailoring the conversation to the specific needs and preferences of the customer, you demonstrate empathy and understanding, which can lead to a more meaningful connection.

When approaching the topic of a customer reference, be sure to inquire about permission before moving forward. By asking the customer for their consent to use their experience as a reference, you show respect for their privacy and prevent any unforeseen complications.

To set expectations, be transparent about the purpose and objectives of the reference request. Clearly explain the benefits of the reference to both your company and the customer, so they understand the impact and value of their participation.

Incentivizing Your Customer Advocates

Creating a solid customer reference framework is crucial for a business's growth and reputation. Offering incentives to your customers can make it easier to secure positive references, and can nudge customers towards becoming promoters of your brand. Here are a few effective incentivizing options for your customer advocates:

One of the simplest and most popular incentives offered to customer advocates is a gift card. Providing gift card rewards to the customers who give positive references can not only encourage their continued patronage but also inspire them to spread the word about your business. This, in turn, can lead to increased referrals and an expanded customer base.

Another effective incentive is offering your customer advocates a promo code they can use for future purchases or share with friends and family. This gives them an exclusive benefit in exchange for their support and demonstrates that their loyalty and expertise are valued by your company.

In addition to these tangible incentives, the sales team should also emphasize the intangible benefits of being a customer advocate. For example, they can help customer references to recognize the value of sharing their expertise and success stories with others. This can serve as a powerful incentive for customers to become promoters of your brand.

How to Avoid "Reference Burnout"

It's important to avoid reference burnout in a customer reference program. This happens when a customer is overused as a reference, leading to dissatisfaction and reluctance to continue participating. To alleviate reference burnout, businesses should adopt the following strategies:

First, create a plan for managing the customer reference program. This includes determining which customers can serve as references and rotating the use of those customers regularly. Regular rotation will prevent fatigue and ensure that no single customer is overburdened with requests.

Choosing the right timing is also crucial, as customers are more likely to be receptive if they've recently had a positive experience with the company. For instance, it's best to ask for a reference shortly after a successful project or at the end of a business quarter when the client has seen measurable success.

Another useful strategy is to automate the reference request process. This can include using software tools to track reference usage, schedule reminders for follow-up, and send out automated emails to customers. Automation can streamline tasks for sales and marketing teams, allowing them to focus on engaging and maintaining relationships with customers.

Leveraging Different Channels for References

When seeking customer references, it is crucial to leverage different channels to maximize your potential reach. By maintaining a referral mindset, businesses can capitalize on the power of referrals and increase their chances of acquiring new customers.

One effective channel is LinkedIn. Connecting with potential references through LinkedIn not only provides easy access to their profile but also allows you to assess their experience and role in the industry. A professional profile can also vouch for the credibility of the referred customer, further increasing the potential for retention.

Apart from LinkedIn, businesses can also tap into their existing customer's loyalty by reaching out through other channels like phone calls and social media. Engaging customers on a personal level helps break the ice and foster better relationships. When asking for references, it's essential to approach the conversation with skill and appreciation, expressing genuine interest in their opinion.

Prepare a list of questions to serve as a guide in these conversations, and be sure to follow up with them regularly. This can help maintain their interest and mobilize them to become your brand ambassadors.

Ultimately, leveraging different channels for customer references requires a balance of persistence and finesse. By demonstrating your appreciation for their opinion and showcasing a genuine interest in their experience, your business can not only gain valuable referrals but also strengthen customer loyalty.


What is the best way to request a customer reference via email?

When requesting a customer reference via email, it is important to be clear, polite, and concise. Start with a friendly greeting and then briefly explain the reason for the email. Highlight the positive experience the customer had with your product or service, and then kindly ask if they would be willing to provide a reference. Be sure to give them a reasonable timeframe to respond and prepare for a potential phone call or a written testimonial. As a courtesy, always thank them for their time and consideration.

Is it appropriate to ask for client references in a proposal?

Asking for client references in a proposal is not only appropriate but also beneficial. Including client references in a proposal demonstrates credibility and builds trust, allowing potential clients to evaluate your capabilities based on the experiences of others. Ensure the references you include are relevant to the services or products you are proposing and that you have prior permission from the clients you intend to mention.

How can I effectively ask for referrals in sales?

To effectively ask for referrals in sales, it is crucial to establish strong relationships with your customers and provide excellent service. Once you have established a positive rapport, it is easier to ask for a referral by expressing your gratitude for their business and explaining how their referral could help your company grow. You may also consider offering incentives, such as discounts or rewards, in exchange for their referrals.

What information should be included in a customer reference letter?

A customer reference letter should include the following information:

  • The recipient's name and contact information
  • Your name, title, and company
  • A brief description of your relationship with the customer
  • Specific examples of how the customer has benefited from your product or service
  • Any relevant statistics, testimonials, or case studies
  • A closing statement expressing gratitude for the opportunity to provide a reference
  • Your contact information for further inquiries

How should I respond when prospects request customer references?

When prospects request customer references, it is important to respond promptly and professionally. Begin by thanking them for their interest in your product or service and then provide a list of references that are relevant and supportive of the benefits you offer. Always ensure you have permission from the customers you are using as references, and inform them that they may receive inquiries from potential clients.

What are some creative methods to request customer referrals?

Some creative methods to request customer referrals include:

  • Hosting referral contests with prizes for the customers who provide the most referrals
  • Offering exclusive discounts or rewards for referring friends or colleagues
  • Creating a referral program with membership tiers and unique incentives for each tier
  • Embedding referral links in digital newsletters, social media posts, or on your website
  • Developing co-marketing opportunities with complementary businesses to cross-promote each other's products or services to an expanded customer base

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