What happened: I went to a client's house in a lousy section of town. He said a friend had used us before. (The job was a $10,000 kitchen facelift.) While I was there, the friend called! The client put me on the phone with him; I said hello. I sold the job on that first visit — minor kitchen and bath work, about $3,000. Through the referral, I had so much credibility — it made a huge difference.

What I learned: I had the best month ever — my closure rate was 50%. This month is even more promising. I think it's because I'm getting repeat and referral business, which I've been fostering from day one. The trust level is much higher starting the sale. — Guy Marzano

What the sales expert says: What Guy did is typical. He got a referral by chance. It's a rare salesman who asks for it. The time to ask isn't at the end. The time to ask is the third or fourth day of an eight-day project. That's when the homeowners see things coming together — things you promised to do. It's the height of excitement. Referral close ratios are healthy, the low 40% range; previous clients close in the 66% range. But the salesman needs to plan to visit the jobsite to ask for referrals. Don't get too cocky. Don't assume you have something in the bag. — Lon Bennett Guy Marzano is a new sales rep with Case Handyman Services of St. Paul, Minn. We're recapping his on-the-job experiences. Lon Bennett is national sales manager with Case Handyman Services, Bethesda, Md.