I was coaching a top producer the other day and he was frustrated because one of his top clients wouldn’t give him referrals.
He said, “I asked him if he was pleased with my performance, and he was. I asked him if he would refer me to a few of his colleagues, and he said he would. But I’m still not getting any referrals. It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Of course it doesn’t make any sense,” I responded. “Not giving referrals is usually not a logical decision.”
As we begin this discussion of dealing with referral objections, I’m assuming that you are doing everything you need to do to become referable quickly in your relationships, and doing everything you can to stay referable over the lifetime of your client relationships.
If you’re asking for referrals, then these typical objections should sound all too familiar:
- I don’t give referrals.
- I’m not ready to talk referrals yet.
- Let me think about it and get back to you.
- I’ve been telling people about you. I’m surprised no one’s called.
- Give me some of your cards to pass out.
When I host live seminars, I like to play “Stump the Referral Coach.” Applying the following formula allows me to deal with virtually every objection thrown my way.
Step 1: Acknowledge and validate their position.
Whatever they say, it’s okay. Let them know it. You understand their perspective.
Step 2: Explore the objection.
This is the most important step in this formula. You must learn the nature of their resistance before your attempt to give them a different perspective. To do this, ask a few questions and try to figure out the true objection. The initial objection is usually an intellectual response, such as “I don’t give referrals.” But the real objection is usually an emotional response, perhaps “I had a bad experience in the past and I don’t ever want to repeat it.”
Step 3: Re-frame their perspective, if you can.
Once you know the nature of their resistance, you can attempt to re-frame their perspective, so that they see the process in a different light. Usually all you need to do is say, “What if you called them first, to let them know why I’m calling?” Once they realize they have some control and that you’re going to help them protect their relationships with their friends or colleagues, they become more open to the process.
Step 4: Collect referrals.
If you’ve been able to re-frame their thinking, you can move onto collecting a few names. Since they’ve been somewhat resistant, you may only go for one or two referrals at this time.
OR Step 5: Plant a seed and back off.
If your client just doesn’t want to go there, back off and live to ask another day. Plant a seed. Say something like “Bob, that’s fine. I do have one simple request. I’m just trying to see if you want to help others in your life through the work we do. If you come across someone whom you think might get value from the work I do, don’t keep me a secret. Fair enough?”