Many home improvement companies ask customers for referrals. And why not? Referral leads close at a rate second only to leads from customers requesting additional work. Referral leads drive down your marketing expenses. And referrals bring in more referrals, provided the job is done right.

Who Brings in Referrals? But should salespeople and customers be the only ones supplying you with referrals?

Experts argue that, given the right kind of company culture, administrative and production employees could also supply your company with leads. Making that happen, of course, isn't easy or quick. Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals and other well-regarded business books (, suggests the place to begin is by getting employee buy-in. After all, even salespeople often fear asking for referrals. “A lot of non-sales employees will be resistant to it,” Burg points out. “They think: I'm not a salesperson. How am I supposed to get referrals?”

Plant the Seed If you're looking to get non-sales or non-marketing people to generate leads, the first thing to do, Burg and others say, is explain — to admin and installers, for instance — why your company needs referrals. The second is to reward them with, for instance, a small commission on the job.

“Owners say, ‘We need referrals,' but they never explain why it's good for the company,” notes Bill Cates, author of Get More Referrals Now! ( and a consultant who has worked with Renewal by Andersen and ABC Seamless. Though task-oriented employees often aren't inclined to engage in sales-oriented conversation with customers — i.e., directly asking for referrals — they can contribute in other ways.

“They can plant the seed,” Cates says. “They can say to the client: ‘Don't keep us a secret out there.' They can talk about the work the company does. They can promote the company. They can contribute to making the kind of great experience that will make the customer want to refer.” Any of that will make the salesperson's request for a referral seem logical, rather than coming out of left field.

Service Personnel An often-overlooked opportunity for referrals, Cates suggests, is with customer service people. Those who perform service work “notice when a customer is happy, and they can follow up.” If service reps don't feel comfortable asking for the referral on the spot, the suggestion can be made to the rep who sold the job to follow up. Cates also suggests:

  • When someone calls your office, have whoever is answering the phone say: “Who referred you to us? —so we know who to thank.”
  • When someone in your organization gets a referral and you send a thank-you note, have a few people sign the note, not just the salesperson.
  • Bring employees together at a company meeting to figure out how each person can further the referral process, i.e., help create a referral mindset.