“Can you tell me the catch?” she leaned in and asked.
“The catch?” I said, confused.
“Yes, the catch to how you generate referrals without asking. It seems too good to be true so there has to be a catch…” her voice trailed off sounding disappointed.
This question wasn’t a surprise to me – when I share that I am able to generate more than 100 referrals each year for multiple years and do it without asking for those referrals, it piques interest and questions…like this one.
“There isn’t really a catch,” I started to explain when she jumped in and said, “But on that podcast interview, you mentioned having a ‘secret sauce’ to how you generate referrals without asking.”
I smiled and said, “There isn’t a catch – I promise. But there is a formula to follow and a mindset to understand, mixed in with some specific tactics I teach my students around experience setting and language. But most important for you to understand – nothing I teach is rocket science – it is actually pretty simple and straight forward. And what I teach helps you stay grounded in being authentic so you don’t feel like you are manipulating others.”
Here is what I explained to my new friend on understanding the referral mindset so you can generate referral without asking.
The Referral Mindset
There are three parts to the referral mindset which need to inform how you think about generating referrals.
- Referrals aren’t about you
- The trust factor
- Knowing who matters most
These three parts together should inform the foundation of how you go about generating referrals. Referrals don’t just magically appear and you can build sustainability into your business if you have a process or plan in place to follow to consistently receive referrals.
Referrals Aren’t About You
While you may be the beneficiary of receiving a referral, keep in mind a referral isn’t about you.
Because when someone refers someone to you it is to help the person who has a need or problem. It just so happens you are the person to help solve their problem. I once heard that the most powerful word in the English language is “help.” When someone needs help, it triggers the very core of who we are as humans. That need to help comes from our strong desire to connect with others. Now that doesn’t mean everybody wants to help at the same level or in the same way but for most people, when someone they know asks them for help they are happy to try to help. Which means when a referral is sent to you, the referral source (who is sending the referral) is trying to help a friend or colleague (and sometimes a stranger) and refers them to you in which they become a prospective new client.
So yes, bonus for you that you just received a prospective new client, but don’t ever think that someone refers you because they are out there looking for clients for you. Your job is to create relationships through ongoing connections with your referral sources so you can let them know how much you appreciate them for their referrals and to stay top of mind.
But what you can’t do is ask for a referral – because that artificially creates a need that hasn’t been established between a referral source and prospective new client. When you ask for a referral, you are asking your referral source to do work for you. To you it may feel like asking for help but to the referral source you are asking them to think through who they know who may or may not need your product or services. This is different from a person talking about a need or problem they have – like issues with their current CPA and they are looking for a new one – to feeling like they have been asked to do work for you – like thinking of anyone they know who may need a CPA and then pass those names on to you.
The reason why understanding this distinction is important because you can’t violate the transfer of trust a referral must have for it to be a referral.
The Trust Factor
The key piece that makes a referral work – meaning the prospective new client who was referred to you is easier to close to become a client – is because they trust you. Why, when they have never met you? Because that prospective new client of yours believes that for their friend or colleague (the referral source) to refer them to you the referral source must trust you. The trust the referral source feels toward you – as the service provider – is transferred to the prospective new client. Why else would their friend refer you to them, unless their friend believes you can solve their problem?
The transfer of trust is critical for a referral to work. What makes referrals the golden child of business development activity is that referrals are easier to move from prospect to client. The trust moves the prospects “closer to the money” faster because they show up on the far-right side of the “know, like and trust” sales continuum (see image below).
Knowing Who Matters Most
The most important person in the referral process is the referral source – not you or the prospective new client referred to you.
The referral source is most important because they refer the new client to you, transfer the trust they have for you to the new client and gives that new client confidence that you can solve their problem (or direct them in the right direction if you can’t).
Knowing who the players are (or cast of characters) and the role they play is critical to knowing how referrals work and who to connect to and build relationship with so you can receive referrals without asking.
The three parts of the referral mindset – knowing referrals aren’t about you, the trust factor and knowing who matters most – sets a foundation for you to apply a process to follow to create an ongoing referral experience for your referral sources to generate more referrals, on a consistent basis.
Up next, we’ll look at what is a referral experience and what it means for you as you work to generate referrals.