Does your mouth suddenly go dry at the thought of asking your clients and vendors for a—gasp!—referral? Perhaps you don’t want to be rejected after asking, or maybe you assume your connections already recommend you in their daily interactions. Truth is, no matter how highly your clients speak of you, a recommendation falls short of a solid referral. Plain and simple, you have to ask for referrals. And you have to be specific about what you’re asking for.

“Could you introduce me to a couple of people like yourself, with needs like yours, who could benefit from our services?” Chances are, you’ll need to ask more than once, as your clients and customers are constantly meeting and making connections with new folks. Again, use specifics when you ask. Which industries are you targeting? Or is there a particular business you are pursuing with whom your client has a connection? Make sure to get the name of a decision-maker. Ask them to make an email introduction or, better still, set an in-person meeting for you. People, for the most part, are hard-wired to want to help. If they believe in you and your work, they’ll likely vouch for you.

Once you get a referral from someone, make sure to thank them appropriately, and reciprocate the gesture when possible. This customer has put their name on the line to endorse and refer you, so show your appreciation.

If you want to grow your business, put a plan into place to ask every customer for referrals.