Why don’t we ask for referrals?


They’re almost certainly the best type of lead your business can receive. Pre-sold on the quality of your service, and already trusting you and your brand.

And yet so many of us, even those who are highly referable, don’t ask for them.

Some of you reading this may be lucky enough to receive them anyway, which is a great testament to the quality of the product or service being provided. But if that’s the case, or if you’re someone who only asks on occasion, then don’t you owe it to you, your business, and the potential recipients of your amazing service to be doing more?

Hint: The answer starts with a Y, has an E in the middle and a S at the end J

But sometimes it’s not as simple as just asking. There are all sorts of reasons why we don’t ask on a consistent basis, or at all. So, here’s a run-down on the reasons I most often hear from people as to why they’re hesitant to tap into this rich pool of potential new business.

‘I don’t want to be a burden on someone’ 

Not wanting to put people out is a common theme that often runs through some of the most referable people I know, who are ironically also some of the most giving themselves.
It’s an issue that’s typically made out to be a much bigger one then it is. Because, in reality, outside of your own mind it’s not an issue at all.

The thing is, it’s actually a pleasure to give someone a referral.

If I make an introduction that I know is a good one, then when I know it’s gone well (you know it’s a REALLY good one when both people message you to say thanks) it makes me feel good. Like all warm inside do a little office dance good. People like to help people. And it can often strengthen the relationship between the person making the referral and the business they’re introducing.

And the way to make it easy for someone to do that for you? Simple; be super specific about the type of referral you want so they barely have to think.
The right referral adds value to EVERYONE involved.

‘I’m uncomfortable with sales activity’

OK, so I don’t think anyone has said those exact words, but there’s 101 different things people have said that essentially boil down to this.

The thing is, if you are one of the many, many business owners who find sales activity a struggle, referrals, and partnerships in general, are a great antidote to this.

I’ll take it as a given that you trust in the service you provide and you’re proud of the value that you give to your customers and clients.

But I also get that as much as we’d all like it to be, knowing this isn’t a magic bullet for suddenly having the confidence to sell. Particularly to people who don’t yet know they need your product – no matter how much you know you could help.

A referral is someone who you can often skip a large part of that process with, or at least approach it in a much more assured manner.

They know what you do, and there must be an interest, or they wouldn’t have accepted the referral suggestion. And they already trust you. They have confidence in your ability to help them because of their relationship with the person making the referral. We’re able to miss out on the bits that many of us find a bit icky or awkward and skip to the fun bits – how you can specifically add value to them.

And you don’t need to oversell, or price compete either as often the person you’re talking to won’t be looking anywhere else.

So, the only salesy bit you have to do is ask for the referral in the first instance. As previously mentioned, people like to do this, so would you rather be asking for a small favour from someone you know and has a positive perception of you, or speaking to someone cold?

‘I don’t know what to offer in return’ or ‘I’ll feel obliged to have to reciprocate’

The obligation objection also comes up frequently, and whilst easily solved it does take a bit more thought as it’s not a one size fits all approach.

First up we’ve all heard the saying about not giving just to receive, I’d suggest that includes introductions. If you have this mindset, then why do you think it doesn’t apply in return to you?

Many people will be happy just to refer you. However all will appreciate at least a thank you. Some would expect a referral fee (even if they don’t ask), others may like something to offer the person they’re referring. Maybe even a mix of all of the above.

The trick is to know the person you’re asking and the nature of how they work.

A friend or colleague has made an introduction that led to some business? Take them out to lunch to say thanks. Or send them a voucher. Or something more personal to them if you know them well enough.

Speaking to a business associate who’s coming across your target market on a regular basis? Set up something more formal that ensures they’re incentivised and keeps you front of mind.

‘I’ve had a bad experience / they’ve not worked for me in the past’

If this is true for you then it’s likely you’ve suffered from one of two things, or both.

*Not asking the right people.

*Not being clear enough on who you want referring to.

These are big subjects in their own right but I’ll try to cover them off here as best I can.

1./  In the first instance, stick to people that you know, like, and trust – and who feel the same way about you. If someone understands you & your business, then they’re much more likely to provide you with the right type of referrals and will be doing it for the right reason.
The exception to this is when someone is dealing with your exact target market who you know you can offer immediate value to.

2./ This is a biggey. And it’s true for all types of partnerships, in fact most if not all types of sales and marketing. If you’re not clear on who you want referring to then how can you expect people to provide you with those people?

And if you’re too vague I promise you it’s doing no-one any favours. If you say to me ‘I can work with any small business owner’ then no-one springs to mind. I just envision a sea of people that I know, all covered in a misty haze.

The minute you’re specific it’s much easier for me to think of particular people, or to remember you when I come across them.

If you’re using tools like LinkedIn then it’s even easier as you can request a specific introduction to someone.

‘I’m not sure when / how to ask’

Whenever the opportunity arises!

If you get your mindset right about why you’re asking, then the trick is to ask both consistently and spontaneously. Have an opportunistic mindset and be open and ready.

This is a huge topic in terms of specifics, but as very quick guide if it’s in a general conversation you need to quickly be able to articulate why there’s value for the business you’d like an introduction to. If you’re speaking to a happy customer then they already know this and it’s just a case of asking.  

There’s sooooo many ways and times you can do this, too many to go into here, but the mindset is the most important piece.

‘I know I should, but I don’t have the time / forget’

This is by far the easiest one to fix and is quite typical amongst people who are already receiving referrals and introductions.

It’s a simple as putting some systems in place to remind you to ask whenever appropriate; so that you personally start to form habits around asking, and your business has a process that reminds people at the relevant time as well.

It really is as simple as that.

Ok, that’s it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether any of these ring true for you, or if you have any others to add the list.

Need help overcoming any of these blocks? 

I’m running a Repeat Referral Workshop on Thursday February 18th which will give the confidence, skills, and processes to ask, and receive, referrals into your business on a consistent basis.

You can find out more and book here: https://www.collaborationjunkie.com/page/RepeatReferral

(If you’re reading this at a later date feel free to click the link anyway, as it will be updated to a newer date if there is one!)
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