No matter what you sell, there are a lot of people out there who can benefit from buying it. The question becomes how to find and make contact with them. Some folks you regularly or not-so-regularly cross paths with can often introduce you to said people. Don't limit yourself to asking just your own customers for referrals. Think outside the customer box.
Friends and Family
Uncle Fred might not be a qualified prospect, but he probably knows someone who is. Your family and friends can be a big help if you educate them a bit as to who your potential prospects are. Give them a few of your business cards and ask them to keep their ears open.
Do you work with an accountant? A lawyer? Even a dry cleaner? All these are great sources for referrals. They talk with clients all day long and many may be great prospects for you. Just let the professional know what you sell, give them a stack of your business cards, and thank them a few dozen times! If you find you're able to refer people back to these professionals, you'll really get some enthusiastic help from them.
Look for salespeople who are incompatible industries and form a referral pact. If you're selling furniture, talk to an interior decorator and suggest that you trade referrals back and forth. If you sell gym memberships, befriend the team at your local athletic shoe store. The possibilities are endless.
You probably worked somewhere else before you took your current sales position, even if it was just a summer job at McDonald's. By all means, keep in touch with the gang at your former place of employment. Unless they're direct competitors of your current employer, they can be a terrific source of referrals.
Got a Facebook page? How about LinkedIn? Mention what you sell in your bio, being as specific as possible. You can even make up informal contests, like promising to buy ice cream for the first person who sends you five referrals. Don't push too hard, though, or people will start dropping off your network.
The Guy Standing Behind You in Line
As you're standing around waiting to buy tickets to a movie, to get your picture taken at the DMV, or to pay for groceries at the supermarket, strike up a conversation with the person next to you. You usually don't have to pitch them hard to get a referral – often all it takes is explaining what you sell and they'll spontaneously think of a friend who's in the market.
Closing the Deal
Don't forget to send a thank you note when one of your referrers comes through for you and sends you a paying customer. He'll remember you, and your name will come to mind the next time he's talking with someone who's in the market to buy the service or product you're selling. He'll probably tell the person to look you up. Maybe he even still has some of those business cards you gave him on hand.
Customers Are Everywhere
Everyone you meet every day is a potential customer – or he knows someone who is. This doesn't mean you must spend your entire life in hard sales mode, but you can drop a word about what you're selling, then move on if interest isn't high. Maybe your neighbor's sister isn't looking to buy a widget today, but she might need one tomorrow and she'll think of you.