Diving Deeper: Why You Shouldn’t Fear Referrals (because you should never ask)

This article is Part 3 in a series on unpacking why referrals are so misunderstood. We are looking closer at the top – though not all – referral myths that hold people back from actively pursuing receiving referrals. First up is the fear based myth – believing we must ask for referrals and network to death.

Here are the links to Part One and Part Two in this series.

Part One: Why Referrals Are So Misunderstood

Part Two: Unpacking the Top Referral Myths

Before we dive in deep to the most common referral myth (the myth based on fear), let’s look at all five again.

Top 5 Referral Myths

  1. To receive I must ask and that makes me uncomfortable (Fear of asking)
  2. To receive I have to network and know a ton of people (Fear of getting out of your comfort zone)
  3. It takes so much time, time I don’t have (Belief in the amount of work needed)
  4. I have to pay for them
  5. Receiving referrals cannot be controlled

The top driving myth of generating referrals is fear-based.  It includes the fear of asking people you know and don’t know for referrals and the fear of the crazy amount of networking you have to do so you can know a ton of people to generate referrals. Let’s dive in and look at these two fears.


It seems that fear has a stranglehold on people’s ability to generate referrals.  Here’s exactly what I hear:

“I hate calling referrals sources and asking them for referrals.”

“Not knowing how to ask for referrals without feeling sleazy.”

“Fear of calling and meeting with people.”

“Afraid of putting myself out there.”

“I feel like I will annoy people.”

“Feeling pushy about it. Also, what if they don’t really like me to refer me?”

“Putting myself out there.”

“Hiding in my office.”

“Asking the right people at the right time, I don’t want to alienate friends.”

“Networking isn’t one of my favorite things.”

“Lack of confidence.”

Their fear – represented of hundreds of answers I have received when I ask what stands in the way of consistently generating referrals – comes from the misconception of how you should generate referrals.

The two major incorrect notions on how to generate referrals are:

  1. You have to ask for referrals
  2. You need to be “out there” with calling and networking and knowing lots and lots of people

Up first, let’s tackle the fear of asking.

Understanding Our Fear of Asking (and making it go away)

Believing that you have to ask to generate referrals brings up a lot of issues like dreading the feeling of being uncomfortable and feeling sleazy when we ask our friends, associates and other business professionals for a referral and knowing we are making them uncomfortable as well.

Because asking for a referral feels a lot like a cold call.

It makes people uncomfortable on both sides of the ask.


The reason why we are uncomfortable asking for referrals is because we are manufacturing a referral.  A manufactured referral is one you ask for, where you are attempting to artificially create or “manufacture” a vital piece of the referral process that must occur naturally.

So what is this vital piece of the referral process?  What is it that cannot be manufactured or artificially created?

It is the need, problem or pain of the prospective client which is the reason the prospective client would want to meet with you.

When you attempt to artificially create the pain, need or problem you force the referral process and once forced it never works.

The reason why referrals are so powerful is because the prospective new client has already identified their need (or at least the problem they would like to solve) and is open to meeting with someone who can solve their problem.

You just can’t manufacture this need by scrolling through your contacts on your phone looking for someone to refer.  You have to know they have a need. And when you ask someone for a referral they are forced to start thinking about who has the exact need you can solve for…a request they are not expecting and now work they have to do for you that they are not prepared to do.  When you ask for a referral…you make the referral process about you and it is never about you.

[Related: The #1 Reason Someone Refers You]

The good news is that you don’t have to ask to generate referrals, in fact if you are asking you are going about generating referrals all wrong.

Why We Think We Have to Ask

We have a fear of asking for referrals because asking is the only advice out there.

Most books on generating referrals are focused on asking for referrals, like:

  • Million Dollar Referrals by Alan Weiss
  • The Referral of a Lifetime by Tim Templeton
  • The Referral Code by Larry Pinci and Phil Glossserman

And articles are published – ever year – providing answers to generating referrals with one main solution…to ask.  Articles like:

  • Get More Referrals By Asking
  • 25 Way to Ask for a Referral Without Looking Desperate
  • 3 Steps to Asking for Referrals Today

It is no wonder that we feel to generate referrals we have to ask because that is the advice the experts and gurus have been telling us for years.

But asking for referrals makes us uncomfortable so we believe that if we won’t ask, then we won’t receive referrals.

Well thank goodness that is wrong.

But before we talk about how to generate referrals without asking, let’s look at the other referral “fear myth.”

The other fear we have when it comes to generating referrals is that we have to know a ton of people so we can consistently generate referrals. And to know all of these people – hundreds and hundreds of them – that is going to take a lot of networking or joining many networking or “leads” groups cleverly disguised as “referral” groups. 

Why We Think We Have to Know a Ton of People

Now for some, the idea that I have to get to know a ton of people to generate referrals is really no problem. Some people love to network and meet new people. But if you only generate referrals when you are “out and about” – you are going to be “out and about” a lot and that won’t be the best use of your time when you have a business to run.

For others, the idea of a ton of networking is a draining and dreaded activity. They would rather pull out their fingernails (yes, someone said that to me before) than spend a lot of time standing around trying to talk to strangers.

But most of us fall somewhere in-between. We don’t mind some networking but we don’t want to spend hours and hours doing it as we know it is not the best use of our time.  And constant networking to know a ton of people takes time.

So where did the idea of “knowing a ton of people is needed to generate referrals” come from?

Well, from the same place the advice to ask came from.  There are book on how to network, when to network, what to say networking that are disguised as “referral” books so when we read one, wanting to learn how to generate referrals, we believe that we have to do a lot of networking.

And there are many networking and leads groups disguised as referral groups. “Receive referrals” is a part of their value proposition (or it is in the name of their group) so when we look at option for how to receive referrals…we see groups advertising about referrals and we make the connection that we need to spend time in these groups to receive referrals.

But just because you can read about networking tactics as a way to generate referrals, doesn’t make it the best way or the only way.  Same goes for asking for referrals.  Just because we can ask for referrals – following the experts advice – doesn’t mean that is the only advice we have to take.

There is another way to generate referrals without asking and without knowing hundreds and hundreds of people.

But before I dive into how to do it…I want to unpack a few more myths…specifically that it takes a lot of time to generate referrals and that you must be willing to pay for your referrals.  Unpacking and diving deeper on those two myths is up next in this series. And then this series will wrap up with what you do need to do to generate referrals without asking, without networking to death or joining a lot of groups.

As we work through these different myths, I encourage you to join me in the free Referrals Without Asking Facebook group for our “March” It Forward for Referral Success. For the month of March, we will focus on learning and executing on what we need to know to generate referrals!  Check in with the group a few times a week to learn something new, try something new and find a great supportive community of business professionals who are dedicated to generating referrals without asking.

I’ll also be live on Thursday, March 8 at noon EST / 9 am PST to talk all about March It Forward and dive in deeper to the fear-based referral myths. Join me on the Stacey Brown Randall live show at www.facebook.com/StaceyBrownRandall.

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