Diving Deeper: Referrals Save You Time (So. Much. Time.)

Time. Our most precious commodity. Makes sense we’d prefer not to waste it.

But we do, don’t we? It is unfortunate but true.

One business growth strategy you might think takes a lot of time – possibly wasted time – is generating referrals.

In fact, a top myth about referrals is that it takes so much time to make referrals happen. Thank goodness this myth is just that…a myth…a falsity…simply not true.

In this series, we are unpacking the 5 top myths that make referrals so misunderstood.

Those top 5 myths we are busting apart to release the truth are:

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

Catch the previous articles in this series here:

Part One: Why Referrals Are So Misunderstood
Part Two: Unpacking the Top Referral Myths
Part Three: Diving Deeper: Why You Shouldn’t Fear Referrals (because you should never ask)

Today’s focus is on the Time Myth (#3 above) and in addition to busting to the Time Myth, I’ll also bust Myth #4 about the belief you have to pay to receive referrals.

Let’s take a closer look at the “Time Myth.”


Besides fear, the lack of time or belief that is takes so much work (i.e. time) to generate referrals is what I hear when people tell me why they don’t try to consistently generate referrals.

Here are just a sample which represent the comments I receive regarding why people don’t believe they can generate referrals consistently.

“Time to do marketing”
“Lack of networking”
“Time to network”
“I tell myself that I am always so busy with actual work (often non-paying) that I don’t have time to attend marketing events, etc.”
“Not honoring the time I block for it each week.”
“Time and focus.”
“Time to network.”

Understanding Our Wariness of Wasted Time

When I dig in deeper to the “it takes too much time” reasons, most of the concerns come from believing – incorrectly – three points that then compound on each other.

First, we believe to receive referrals we have to ask (Myth #1 – Read more.)

Second, we believe we have to know a lot of people through networking, attending leads groups and always staying diligent on meeting new people. Notice the mentions in their comments about “networking” and “marketing.” (Myth #2 – Read more.)

And finally, we can assume that with all that networking, all that time getting to know people, all that time preparing to ask and all those meetings in which we have to ask…that generating referrals just takes so. much. time. (which creates Myth #3).

If we only believe that our referral generation is in direct proportion to the size of our network, then of course it makes sense that we would assume there is a lot of time needed as we grow our network (like networking and marketing events).

But our general network doesn’t refer us…people we know well within our network are the only ones who refer us. People we have a relationship with, people who trust us – those are the ones who refer us. The size of our network doesn’t impact the number of referrals received. In fact, there is another metric that dictates the number of referrals received and that is the strength of our relationships with a key group of referral sources.

Why We Think Referral Are A Time Suck

Most of the time we believe what we believe because of an “expert” or training. (Really, my referral training is no different.) We believe referrals are a time suck because that is what we have read, been taught or experienced ourselves.

It is What We Read
Most of us don’t mind some networking but we don’t want to spend hours and hours doing it when we inherently know it is not the best use of our time. It just takes a few poor or sub-par networking events to teach us that. But we think we must engage in constant networking to know a ton of people and that takes a lot of 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 for referrals” came from, what we read. There are books on how to network, when to network, and what to say networking that are actually disguised as “referral” books. So, when we read one of these networking-books-disguised-as-referral books – because we wanted to learn how to generate referrals – we believe that we must do a lot of networking. An example is Bob Burg’s book Endless Referrals.

It is What We are Taught
Besides books, we are also taught other networking strategies, like a networking “system” to generate referrals for us. For example, one expert being interviewed about his referral process which was in effect these “rings” or “groups” of people we need to have to generate referrals. His strategy was to have many rings or groups as possible and work with them weekly and monthly to send referrals. I was so exhausted and stressed just listening to him that I can only imagine how others must feel when they hear that advice and they don’t know there are other ways.

Just the pressure of the time to create, coordinate and manage those groups on top of all the other work we must do – delivering client work, book keeping, email and more – is an exhausted proposition and naturally creates the perception we need a lot of time to make this process work if we want referrals.

It is What We See in Our Professional Community
There are many networking and leads groups disguised as referral groups. Group tout “receive referrals” as part of their value proposition so when we look at options 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 generate referrals. But some of these groups meet weekly. That’s a lot of time.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t join networking or leads groups…just don’t assume that joining one or even a dozen is going to open the flood gates of referrals. Referrals don’t work that way.

Just because you can read or learn about networking tactics as a way to generate referrals, doesn’t make it the best way or the only way. In fact, most advice does sound like a time suck, and none of us can really afford to waste time.

Setting the Record Straight

Generating referrals isn’t about quantity.

It’s not about the quantity of time spent networking. Or the quantity of how many people you know.

Generating referrals is about creating quality relationships with a group of referral sources in which your focus is on them, not on you. And when you focus on quality, and follow a system, you naturally save time. Building relationships with your referrals sources can be done through specific outreach that is impactful and done without spending a lot of time “networking” or “marketing.”

Most of my Growth By Referrals students only need to know a few dozen quality referral sources (unless you need massive volume) and a plan to follow to focus on spending quality time building relationships, which doesn’t just mean face-to-face quality time. There are many ways to build impactful relationships that let you stay top of mind with your referral sources.

And While I’m At It

Let me also set the record straight on Myth #4 that says you have to pay for the referrals you receive. Some people are willing to ask to be compensated for sending a referral your way. Their action becomes the expectation and creates the impression that when you receive referrals, you should be willing to pay for them.

But remember this is another myth. (Myth #4)

We know referrals only come from relationships and you should not commoditize your relationships. When you offer to pay for a referral you commoditize the relationship by turning the referral into a transaction, which it is not.

Let’s put ourselves in the prospective new client’s shoes (the person who had a need or pain and is being referred to you). Imagine how they would feel to know that they were – potentially – only referred to you because the person referring them to you (the referral source) was going to make a commission. That is called sales. That is not a referral. That is not a buddy or colleague helping them with their problem; just a person making a buck off their problem or pain.

Which means, you do not have to pay to receive referrals and in fact you shouldn’t agree to pay or offer to pay.

[Note, now in some industries there is a common and acceptable practice of paying a commission on a sale in an affiliate or joint venture relationship. But in those relationships the commission is disclosed up front, so everyone is aware of the payment.]

Wrapping Up

So, we’ve unpacked and debunked four of the five myths. We now know we should never ask for referrals, so we don’t have to fear asking. We also don’t have to worry about knowing a ton of people or spending wasted time on networking. And we know we don’t have to pay for referrals.

There is one more myth I want to bust and that is receiving referrals is not controllable (they actually are). That’s up with the next article.

But in the meantime, I encourage you to join me in the free Referrals Without Asking Facebook group as we continue our “March” It Forward for Referral Success. For the month of March, we are focusing 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 different 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 15 at noon EST / 9 am PST to talk all about March It Forward and dive in deeper to the time-based referral myth. Join me on the Stacey Brown Randall live show at www.facebook.com/StaceyBrownRandall.

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