6 fixes for friends who hesitate to refer

Most people agree referrals are one of the best ways to grow your business. Happy clients send you interested prospects. Yet sometimes happy clients who you consider friends don’t send you referrals, and you don’t know why. It could be one of the following reasons:

1. Fear of responsibility if something goes wrong. It’s a nightmare scenario. Your client sends a friend. Something goes wrong. The friend is upset. They find a friendly lawyer who suggests they sue. Your client is named in the lawsuit.

What should you do? However unlikely the outcome, it’s a concern for some. Instead of asking them to “send their friends,” get them looking for someone with a problem. Suggest a few. They are now in the role of helping a friend fix a problem. Something went wrong beforehand. Your client is trying to be part of the solution. That should lessen their anxiety.

2. They don’t know the size or type of accounts you handle. It sounds improbable. Your client was once a walk in. They had a unique problem you solved. They think you are great! Unfortunately, they don’t know anyone with the exact same problem. They think you specialize in one situation only.

What should you do? Have a relaxed conversation. “Let me tell you about my business.” This leads into “These are the type of people or situations where I might be able to help.” Now you’ve got them thinking the right way.

3. They want to keep you to themselves. Imagine you found a great resale shop with great prices. You found a famous designer handbag (you know the brand) for next to nothing! You carry it all the time! Do you tell your friend about this store where you bought your luxury goods on the cheap? Probably not. It’s unlikely, but your client might want you all for themselves.

What should you do? It’s unlikely they will say, “You’re my little secret.” The risk described in the first example could be the reward in this third example. Create a scenario. Maybe you have some background data. “Imagine your uncle had this problem. They didn’t know where to turn. You were able to make the right connections and help solve his problem. Wouldn’t he think you were the best nephew in the world?”  Get them seeing the personal benefit of being the one who arranged the introduction.

4. They don’t know if you are adding clients. You’re successful and busy. They know people who have the potential to be clients. They don’t know, however, if you’re accepting new clients. They don’t want a friend to call and be turned away. That would be embarrassing for your client.

What should you do? This is an easy issue to address. When people ask: “How’s business?” drop in the anonymous story of the new client you took on. They were sent by this other client. They had (this) problem. You were able to help address it. Your client now knows you are adding clients and the types of situations you can help address.

5. You are too busy already! You turn down golf invitations. You aren’t free for dinner. You’re always working. They know you accept referrals. They have a family member who needs help. They don’t approach you because you are overwhelmed, barely able to keep up. Asking for help for a friend would be an imposition. They don’t want to impose.

What should you do? Your client is an important client. “I will try to always have time for you.” Explain this offer extends to their friends too. “I might look busy, but I can always try to find time for someone who needs my help.”

6. They don’t know how to approach their friend. This is another nightmare scenario. Your client tells their friend, “You should do business with my advisor.” The friend asks why. “They asked me to send my friends.” The friend asks,  “What’s in it for you. A finder’s fee?” Your client is embarrassed. Simply put, they don’t know how to make the connection.

What should you do? See if they can put you together in the same location. Meet for drinks or coffee. They invite their friend out. Other friends will be present. This happens to include you. Maybe this is done by them alone, over the phone. They might acknowledge a problem their friend has shared. Your client had the same problem. You addressed it. You might be able to help them too. 

There are lots of reasons why people are reluctant to refer. These are tactful, comfortable ways of making the process easier.

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. His book, Captivating the Wealthy Investor, can be found on Amazon

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