Mistaken assumptions = no referrals
By Bill Cates
Why don't reps ask for referrals more often? Mistaken assumptions. Producers make certain assumptions about the referral process that often prevents them from being able to fully leverage their client relationships.
A few weeks ago I was having a very interesting conversation with Phil Simonides. Phil is a field vice president with American Express Financial Advisors in Northern Virginia. Phil has developed a very effective referral system much like the one I work with.
In teaching his system to both new and veteran advisors, Phil has observed the same thing that I have: Most producers fear that asking for referrals will damage the client relationship. Of course, like most fears, this one is a ghost; it appears real, but isn't.
Phil asks the definitive question: "Have you ever damaged a client relationship by asking for referrals?" Of course, the answer is almost always "no."
Assumption No. 1: The damage threshold
Phil has developed a concept he calls the "damage threshold": You think that X behavior will damage the relationship, but you've never actually done it. Phil says,
"It's imagining the worst possible scenario that never happens." That's a great way to look at it. This imagination (or fear) holds one back from more effective action.
As you might expect, Phil encourages his advisors to, "Go out there and find out what the damage threshold is. Until you determine that, you'll never be as proactive as you can be." Phil also coaches his advisors, "Have fun doing it. The more fun you have, the harder it will be to find that threshold. In the meantime, you'll be collecting a ton of referrals."
A wise man once said, "You never know how far you can go until you go too far." Here's the bottom line: Asking for referrals, especially with my four-step method, will almost never hurt your client relationship. The worst thing that will happen is that you won't get a referral, but you'll plant a powerful seed that will likely bear fruit later.
Assumption No. 2: I'll blow the sale
Another powerful mistaken assumption is that by asking for referrals, you'll blow the sale, and your client will ask for their check back. The truth is, when a client has made a decision to do business with you, their perceived value of you is at a high point. This is one of the best times to ask for referrals. I promise you, nobody is going to ask for their check back or decide not to do business with you as long as you don't get too aggressive in your request.
Assumption No. 3: I'll look unsuccessful
Many reps fear that asking for referrals makes them look less successful. My response is, "It depends on how you ask." If you ask in the old-school manner by telling clients you get paid through referrals or by saying something like, "I'm trying to build my business and I need your help," then I could see how that might make you seem less successful.
Here are two things to consider:
1) Asking for help actually is a sign of high self-esteem. The most successful people I know have learned how to ask for help -- from clients as well as others -- in a way that doesn't diminish their "status" but, rather, enhances it.
2) When you ask for referrals, don't base the request on helping you; instead, make it about bringing your valuable process to others. Believe in the value and importance of your process. (You do have a process, don't you?)
Now, some people feel uncomfortable being asked for referrals. There's a term for this in psychology known as "projection." We hold a certain belief or feeling about something, and our psyche projects that "truth" on to someone else. We feel uncomfortable asking for referrals, so we assume others would feel uncomfortable being asked.
Not everyone will give us referrals. Our job is to identify the people who will without hurting the relationships with those who won't. You don't need all of your clients to give you referrals. You just need enough of them to. When you have a soft, yet proven method for asking for referrals, you can ask just about every client you have and not worry about damaging the relationship.
Let me remind you of a central part of our system: Ask your clients value-seeking questions. Check in with them at the end of meetings. Determine if they see the value.
Have a discussion. Probe their perception of the value you bring to the table. This is the best lead-in to the referral conversation: "Who's the next person to receive the value?"
First, become aware of how your mistaken assumptions and limiting beliefs are sabotaging your efforts to generate more and better referrals. Second, take the necessary actions to remove those barriers and start producing better results.
*For further information, or to contact this author about The Referral Advantage(TM) Video Training Program, please leave a comment and your e-mail address in the forum below.