People get pitched products and services all the time in modern society, and this can cause them to have their guard up against and ultimately be repelled by anything that even resembles a "sales situation," even when it comes to your good clients and referrals. Asking something like, "Do you know anyone who could benefit from my services?" can be off-putting to some, and they may not want to mention friends and family because they're afraid you're going to "sell" them.
To avoid your referral requests sounding like a sales situation, consider using what recent Advisor Radio (free registration required) guest Judith Cane calls a no-pressure request. Judith, an advisor in Ottawa, Ontario who specializes in working with women, starts by asking her clients if they ever talk about finances with other members of the clubs or organizations they belong to (you'll want to know ahead of time what clubs/organizations they are members of so you can pose the question specifically).
If they say yes, she asks, "Could you pass my name on if they're interested?"
If they say no, she tells her client that they can invite any of her fellow-members to a wine and cheese tasting that she hosts regularly, where they can learn more about investing, the cause of all the trouble in the stock market, and other topics of financial concern.
At the event itself, Judith concentrates solely on providing her guests with quality information of benefit to them and she invites them to sign-up for her e-mail newsletter if they like. She does not pressure anyone and does not aggressively follow up.
While this kind of no-pressure referral process may not bring the immediate business of a more aggressive approach, in the long-term, it works. Judith mentioned that she has been contacted by people who attended one of her events over a year ago who, while they weren't interested then, are now nearing retirement and could use some good advice.
Consider introducing elements of this kind of no-pressure approach into your own referrals system to avoid the sales stigma. And head over to the Advisor Radio (free registration required) to hear Judith describe her strategy in even more depth.