A few weeks ago I wrote a white paper called NEVER ASK
FOR REFERRALS. It has become the second most popular download on my website.
Many people (including the person I had lunch with today) have commented on
Maybe I hit a nerve.
What surprised me was how positive most the comments
were. It’s as if people were relieved someone finally said what they’ve been
thinking for a long time.
Asking for referrals is a sales tactic that has been
carved into stone for most sales professionals. It has been taught to hundreds
of thousands of people for many decades. It’s almost sacrilegious to suggest you
don’t do it.
Yet I believe many people never ask for referrals.
Because they hate it. They find it uncomfortable for them and their customers.
They feel it could actually cause more harm than good with their customers. Many
sales professionals hate asking for referrals almost as much as making cold
calls. (I’d suggest you cold call long before I’d recommend you ask for
The good news is you don’t have to ask for referrals to
get them. In fact, as I’ve said before, you should never ask.
One of the problems with asking for referrals is that
you’re trying to force an outcome. You’re trying to make something happen in an
unnatural way. It’s like trying to force someone to be happy. It does not
A referral is an outcome. And remember, we do not control
outcomes. We influence them with inputs. So, if you want to get more referrals,
you need to do the right things (inputs) that are more likely to create
Referrals happen naturally when several conditions are
A person feels good about doing business with someone
or with a company.
They have a friend who wants what the person or company
They believe their friend will have a similar
experience as they did with this person or company
When a person makes a referral they are doing so to help
the person they are referring. They care about that person. They know enough
about them to believe they want what your company does. And they believe, based
on experience, that your company will help their friend as they helped you.
The referrer benefits because they have the opportunity
to help a friend. Your job (as the product or service provider) is easy. All you
need to do is help their friends like you helped them. In others words, do what
you do best.
Note, in the three necessary conditions for a referral,
you do not control any of them. But you do INFLUENCE the first and the third.
Your actions will determine (to a large degree) whether conditions #1 and #3
exist. If you discover what your customers want and give it to them better than
anyone else then the odds are very good you will help create conditions #1 and
If you focus on what you want and you give little
attention to helping them get what they want, then conditions #1 and #3 will
probably never occur. And neither will referrals.
You want referrals? It’s easy. Take care of your
customers better than anyone else. Work with them to understand what they are
trying to accomplish. Help them get what they want plus a little more. Help them
be pleasantly surprised when they do business with you. Deliver a great
experience for them and they will naturally think of you when their friends want
what you do.
Do the things that help produce the three conditions
above. Keep doing them day after day, week after week. Get better and better.
The more you do the right things, and the better you get at them, the more
you’ll see the outcomes you want. In this case, you’ll see more referrals than
you could ever get by asking.