For over 10 years we have been teaching Professionals how to discuss referrals with Clients in a comfortable and effective manner. Along the way we have noticed a series of common, “rookie” mistakes made by participants as they reskill in this process. Let’s review those mistakes now and hopefully you can avoid making them in the first place!
Don’t rush – slow down
Many Professionals rush a referral discussion. This is self-defeating. The faster you move the conversation, the less effective it is. The key target of our referral discussion is a Client’s memory – either allowing them to absorb and retain what we are telling them or allowing them to review possible referrals and bring them to mind. Rushing the discussion only makes it harder for a Client’s memory to activate. Client’s literally “need time to think”. Humans have a relatively poor perception of time as well. Professionals often think a referral discussion took 5-6 minutes, when in reality it only took 2-3 minutes. Slowing down gets better results.
Don’t ask for “anyone” – be specific
We often hear Professionals ask their Clients “Is there ANYONE else we can help?” or similar broad phrasing. These are the least effective phrases for referrals. Such vague language results in vague outcomes. The word ANYONE doesn’t trigger anything in a Client’s memory, doesn’t give the Client anything else to work with in the future and suggests a very low threshold of referral quality from your side (since you are looking for ANYONE). If you want specific outcomes with Clients you need to use specific language to activate their memory (either now or in the future).
Don’t look for clients to discuss referrals with – look for clients you won’t discuss referrals with
Most Professionals look for “good” Clients to discuss referrals with. Their (misinformed) fears about referrals lead them to discuss referrals with the 5-20% of “good” Clients they find. Smart Professionals work the opposite way – they are looking for the unsatisfied Clients who shouldn’t have a referral discussion (but should instead have a different discussion around satisfaction). Since the majority of Clients are satisfied, these Smart Professionals end up carving out just 5-20% of unsatisfied Clients and talking with the remaining 80-95% of satisfied Clients about referrals. For Smart Professionals, the starting point is to discuss referrals with a Client…unless they see a reason not to. Not surprisingly, they have a lot more referral discussions and generate a lot more referrals.
Don’t have immediate expectations – play for the long-term
Too many Professionals continue to treat Clients like referral vending machines. They expect Clients to be able to provide referrals 24/7. This expectation means the Professional brings “baggage” into the discussion and, even inadvertently, places additional pressure on the Client. It also places pressure on the Professional and makes them less “rejection proof”. It’s such a self-defeating expectation as it results in more pressured, less effective discussions and usually means the Professional ends up having fewer discussions to avoid their perceived rejection. Either way, the expectation of instant referrals leads to fewer instant referrals. The best expectation is not to expect anything! This relaxes you and allows you to shift your goals for a referral discussion elsewhere. Suddenly your referral discussions get better and you obtain more referrals…by expecting less of them.