One of the most common referral questions I always hear is “How many names should I try to get in one sitting?” 

My answer: "It depends.”

It depends on how open your referral source is to the process; and how much time and energy they feel like devoting.

My personal record is 17 names in one phone call, and I’ve gotten 10 to 11 on several occasions, but NOT because I pushed my clients into this. I was ready to move on to another subject several times, but they kept on going, and going, and going (like the Eveready Energizer Bunny.)

At a recent referral boot camp, an advisor told me his method: He told me he doesn’t “brainstorm” for a lot of names. He explains to clients, “I’m glad you really see the importance and value of the work we’ve done together. Who is one person that you know, who you think should really know about the work I do?”  

He only asks for one referral each time, but the one he gets is always a good one – a high-trust referral.

Now, it must be said that this advisor is extremely successful and doesn’t need the quantity that some advisors need. If you need more than just one great referral, do what I usually teach: come prepared to suggest several places (names, categories, target lists, etc.) and brainstorm with your client.  You can use this method as part of the overall brainstorming.

Remember, if you ask, they can always say, “no.” If you don’t ask, the answers is always “no.”  Don’t run your career afraid of the word “no.” They won’t stop being your client, for goodness sakes.

Bill Cates is the author of Get More Referrals Now!, Don’t Keep Me a Secret! and Beyond Referrals. To receive Bill’s complimentary newsletter and to learn more about how he might help you acquire more and better clients through referrals, go to