A referral success story everyone can learn from

By Bill Cates


Aquiles Larrea, who attended one of our boot camps, has been having success with our system and recently sent me a letter. I’d like to share this letter with you because it’s a good example of how he experienced success with several important strategies. I will point them out so you can do the same.

“Dear Bill,

“I’m writing to tell you about the impact your referral boot camp has had on my business. The bottom line is that my commitment to a referral-based business has changed and so has my business lifestyle. I no longer have to set aside time for other less efficient marketing strategies. Using your system, I’m asking for and getting great referrals. See lesson one below.

“Here’s a quick success story. After your boot camp, I “practiced” — as you suggested — with a few of my lower-level clients, so I could refine my referral process before approaching my top clients. See lesson two below.

“When I was ready, I approached one of my top five clients and asked for referrals. While it was clear he didn’t feel threatened or uneasy, his response was, “I know a few people. Can I please get back to you on this?” I gently explored his objection — as you taught us — and knowing his guarded nature, I backed off. See lesson three below.

“About two weeks later, this top client called me with a referral to one of his friends. I met with his friend and he became a huge client — a multi-million dollar client ($3.5 million). See lesson four below

“Following your system, I have arranged for this new client and myself to take the referring client to lunch to say thank you. Everyone is up for the lunch. I’ve used this technique in the past and it always helps. The last time I did it, I received four new referrals. See lesson five below

“From all of this, I’ve learned that even if you don’t get referrals right away, your client hasn’t lost respect for you, and they may even come back to you with referrals later. Thanks for having a huge impact on my business.”
Aquiles Larrea – LF Consultant Partners – New York, NY

The rest of the story

In a subsequent e-mail Aquiles writes,"Bill, Remember the story about the great referral I got from my top five client? There’s more to the story.

"The new client is so happy with the work I’ve been doing for him, he’s been telling his friend — the client who made the referral. Now, the referring client has moved another $1.2 million over to me. I guess this is how it’s supposed to work.”


What can you learn from Aquiles’ story?

Lesson one: Building a business based almost exclusively on referrals — while clearly the most efficient and most profitable way — does take some time. And it begins with your commitment to the process. Most sales people dabble in referrals. They know what to do when they trip over them, but most have not committed to using a day-in, day-out systematic process. Aquiles has committed, and his whole lifestyle has changed.

Lesson two: I teach reps not to immediately go out and ask their best and biggest clients. After learning any new technique, it’s best to “practice” on the clients who love you, first. You can bumble through it, not hurt the relationship, and get what you want.

Lesson three: You can’t hammer people for referrals. If you get some resistance, explore their perspective. Learn more about how they feel. Then, if you have to, back off from your request — with confidence. When you explore their position softly from a place of curiosity and then respect their position, you actually become more referrable.

Lesson four: It is quite common to ask someone for referrals, not be successful right away, and then have them volunteer referrals for you later. Some people will give you referrals right when you ask, and on your terms, while others will give them to you later, on their terms. Asking for referrals, but not getting them, is a great way to plant seeds for referrals in the future.

Lesson five: Aquiles paid attention during the boot camp. This is step 10 of our system: “Get the new client to thank the old client.” Doing this over lunch — you pick up the tab, but the “thanks” comes from both of you — is the most effective way. This validates the giving of referrals for the referral source. And as Aquiles evidences, this lunch can yield more referrals.