If you’re a business owner, the task at the top of your “to do” list is likely finding ways to grow your business. Regardless of its type or size, one of the best ways to do this is through referrals. Getting business by referral is inexpensive and should be an ongoing part of your business plan. Not only can asking for referrals help you find new customers, but you might also learn of a venture capitalist or business banker who can help you get a small business loan.

Most large businesses have teams of people who do this, but asking for a small business referral can be intimidating. Read these five easy steps to make asking easier.

1. Practice asking for business by referral

The old adage “practice makes perfect” stands true here. If you’ve never asked for a small business referral before, it’s natural that the thought of it might make you uncomfortable. The most effective way to overcome this is by practicing saying the words. Write down a short script and recite it to a friend or in front of the mirror. The more comfortable you get, the easier it will be to grow your business by referral.

2. Set the stage with existing customers

Ask an existing customer for your first small business referral. Simply mention that referrals are an important way for you to grow your business and make you better equipped to meet their future needs. Or, share a story with them about another referral you received and how it helped you meet the needs of your existing customers. You don’t need to be pushy or overbearing to grow your business by referral.

3. Create alliances for small business referrals

Consider businesses that have a similar customer base. For example, if you’re a freelance writer, you could reach out to graphic designers; or if you own a moving company, you could work with furniture stores. Often the best way to get a referral is to give a referral and then grow the relationship into a strategic partnership.

As you grow your business through these alliances, you’ll also meet people who can positively impact your business in other ways. For example, you might meet investors or trusted advisers who can help you further grow your business by offering financial advice.

4. Join a business referral network

Professional organizations and trade associations are an obvious place to start, but religious, charity and community service groups are great too. A business referral network is a great way to connect with other people you don’t know but are already in your professional and/or personal circles. They’re also a great way to stay current with trends and developments that might impact your business.

5. Say thank you for any business by referral you receive

Don’t just verbally say “thank you” for referrals you receive; instead, send a note or small gift to show your appreciation. Not only does this show effort on your part, but it may also trigger an additional referral for you. Some companies even build rewards programs into their plans.

Getting business by referral is easier than you think

Start by practicing what words you’ll use and then test them on an existing, happy customer. From there, you can use partnerships and networks to grow your business by referral. Before you know it, you’ll be applying for your next small business loan to expand your business even farther. Then you can use the income from referrals to grow your business savings. Crossing things off your business checklist isn’t always this easy, so don’t delay starting a referral program any longer.