The 7 Deadly Referral Mistakes – Are You Making Them?

By Bill Cates
President, Referral Coach International

MISTAKE #1 – Lack of Commitment to Referrals

Are you committed to building a referral-based business? Really? Or are you just giving lip service to the notion? Sure, you may have the best of intentions, but your commitment shows through your actions – nothing else. Do your actions demonstrate
a real commitment to MAKING referrals happen for you?

Why are most people not fully committed to being proactive with referrals? Simple! It’s fear. Now, we’ll go into more detail on this referral-wrecker later in this report, but fear is most often the root cause. The beautiful thing is that once you understand, face, and move through your fear, a whole new world of referral opportunity opens up to you. Your referral results increase substantially.

Here’s a thought for you. How would your next great (best ever) client prefer to meet you? Through a cold call? No! In a seminar? Only by default. From a direct mail piece? You’ve got to be kidding! Study after study has demonstrated that the best clients WANT to meet you through an introduction from someone they already trust, like a friend, family member, colleague, CPA, attorney, etc. Why would you make referrals a passive process and not become proactive?

Here’s another thought. Have you heard the expression “Become a student of the game?” You hear this a lot in sports, where a player, who has become a student of the game, is able to become a great coach as well. A scholar is often referred to as a
“student of history.” I consider myself a “student of referrals.” I am always learning from the people I teach. I read, listen to, and watch every referral educational program I can get my hands on. Why? Because the more I know, the better I can help

You too can become a student of referrals. Learn all you can – from me and from others. Give referrals so you know what it’s like to be on the giving side of referrals. When you study referrals more – and actually ACT on what you learn, from time to
time – your commitment to building a thriving referral-based business will become stronger.

At the end of this report, I’ll give you some of the ways we help folks like you learn all they can about how to make referrals work for them. Many of the tools we provide are free. (Free is good.)

MISTAKE #2 – Making Referrals All About YOU

If you’re in financial services, then you’ve probably heard or even been taught to say, “Let me tell you how I get paid. I get paid in two ways.” Let me be perfectly clear about one thing. STOP saying that! Let’s take a look at this for a second. I think you already know that not everyone likes to give referrals. No matter how referable you are, some people just don’t play the game. So, now let’s say you’re in the presence of a new prospect or even a new client – a client who doesn’t like to give referrals – or likes to take their time in participating in referrals. Then you tell them this is how you get PAID! You set referrals up as an obligation and not an earned right. Now tell me. Do you think you are building or losing rapport and trust? Okay. I know that some folks still produce results with a producer-centered methodology for asking for referrals. Heck, I used to teach a producer-centered
approach. I used to teach folks to say, “I’m building my business and I really value your help!” Not bad, eh? And it can produce some results, even in today’s marketplace. However, there is a better way – better for you, better for your clients,
and one that produces better results.

Use a client-centered approach to asking for referrals. (Check out our Referral Scripts Book for a variety of ways to ask for referrals.) Make it all about the value you bring to them and they recognize. Think about it this way; when you get a
referral without asking for one, why did that client give that to you? It’s because they saw the value in the work you’ve done for them and want to introduce others to that value. Perhaps they want to help you become more successful too, but that’s
secondary motivation. Clients give referrals ONLY when they see the value in the work you do. So make your request for referrals all about your value and extending that value to others.

MISTAKE #3 – Forgetting to Ask for Referrals

Do you ever forget to ask for referrals? Shame on you! If you’re making this mistake, then you’re clearly missing some huge opportunities to be introduced to some great clients. But are you REALLY forgetting? Or is something else going on there?

I submit that what may really be going on here is that you don’t feel comfortable and confident asking your clients for referrals so – unconsciously – you make little decisions along that way that sabotage your referral efforts. Only you know if this is
true for you. I can tell you with great confidence, that I know it’s true for many producers.
So, what do you do to fix this mistake? First, you need to truly commit to

building a referral based business – as I’ve already addressed. Second, you need to get yourself a “prop.” Many producers are having great success using a Referral Journal to collect their referrals. They have a small black book (or whatever color you like) that they put out on the table during all, or most, of their meetings. This Referral Journal acts as a constant reminder (or prop) to plant referral seeds, have value discussions, and ask for referrals (many of the techniques we teach in our system). In this way, you don’t forget and, therefore, manage your appointments better.

Using this Referral Journal doesn’t mean you have to ask for referrals on every appointment, it just means you won’t forget. Now, when you do ask and you begin to get some referrals, you open this book and use it collect your referrals. This validates
the process for your clients and treats the request with importance.

If you’d like to see a great Referral Journal, check out the one on our website at: store/introductions.
Our Introductions Journal will not only serve you as mentioned above, but will also
prompt you to ask certain questions that will increase the quality of your referrals and

MISTAKE #4 – Not Being Referable in the First Place

Being referable is a huge topic. Are you referable? How do you know? Well, one barometer of your referability is that you’re getting referrals without asking for them. Are you? Every business owner, sales professional, financial professional – you
name it – should be getting referrals without asking for them. Regardless of the exact nature of your business, there are people out there who like to give referrals. You should at least be getting those.

However, usually these passive referrals aren’t plentiful enough or are not always the right matches for your business. This is why we want to find ways to be proactive – as much as possible – without being pushy or obnoxious.

So how do you become more referable? With prospects and new clients, it’s all about the process you go through with them. It’s NOT about your products. Having great products certainly helps, but the greatest product in the world won’t spur a
client on to giving you referrals if your process is not referable. Think process, not products.

Now, what keeps you referable over the lifetime of your client relationships?
There are 3 levels of activity you must engage in to maintain a high level of
1) Transactional – You must have systems, standards, and help in place to make sure you don’t drop the ball and handle all transactional aspects of your practice with impeccable service.

2) Value Added – If you don’t continue to add value to your client relationships, then you are no longer necessary. Think of all the possible ways you bring more value to your clients. Being realistic, bring as much as you can to your ‘A’ client. Bring a
subset of that to your ‘B’ clients, and a subset of that to your ‘C’ clients.

3) Business Friendships – Build as many business friendships with your clients as possible. Some may not want to be your business friend and vice versa. But in most cases, this is a desired outcome with your clients. People do business with their business friends and they refer business to their business friends. One of the best ways is to host client appreciation events of all kinds. Stay tuned to my website (, and newsletter ( where you will find more information about client appreciation and referral events.

MISTAKE #5 – Thinking Great Service Alone is Not Enough

Many people walk around under the illusion that “If I just serve the heck out of my clients, they will refer me to others.” Well…some will. But many more won’t unless you nudge the process along and become proactive.

Let me give you the 60% rule that I share in my speeches, seminars, and training programs. Everyone’s numbers are different, but it goes like this:
20% of your clients will give you referrals – almost no matter what. These are the folks whose brains are wired to give referrals.
20% of your clients will never give you referrals – no matter what. You could run into a burning building and save their children and they wouldn’t give you referrals.
They have different “wiring.”
The gap that exists for most financial professionals is the 60% of the clients who will have a conversation with you about referrals, but not unless you bring it up with them. Not all of them will give you referrals on the spot, but will do so over time.
How big is YOUR referral gap? If you’re just getting started, don’t let this happen to you!

MISTAKE #6 – Letting Your “Belly Button” Get in Your Way

My first sales trainer was a guy named Dave Sandler – out of Baltimore, Maryland. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. He’s the founder of The Sandler Sales Institute. While Dave is no longer with us, and I didn’t always buy into everything he
taught, he had a concept I really liked. He called it “Protecting Your Belly Button.”
What he meant by this was “giving into your fear.”
Why don’t most folks ask for referrals? You already know the answer. I told you in Mistake #1, FEAR. Let’s go a little deeper with it now.
I’ve heard just about every reason in the world why people don’t ask for referrals. While the exact words change with each individual, every reason I’ve ever heard is fear based. The good news is that at the core of each fear is the solution to that fear.
I’ll give you a couple of examples. Stay tuned to my system and you’ll get them all.

Fear #1 – Asking for referrals will make me look unsuccessful. I don’t want
to beg for referrals.
Of course you don’t. But can you see how this is fear based? “I don’t want to ask for referrals because I fear being judged as unsuccessful by my clients.” So what’s the solution to this fear? Simple. Find a way to ask for
referrals in a way that comes from a position of strength; that comes from a position of success. Make it all about the value you bring and the confidence you have in your ability to help people. This is what our Unlimited Referrals® Marketing System teaches. It’s a client-centered way to approach referrals that’s all about strength and nothing about weakness or begging. It’s a system that actually works!

Fear #2 – Asking clients for referrals will hurt my relationship with them. No it won’t! Not if you ask in the right way – one that simply doesn’t hurt relationships. When you use a client-centered approach that’s a bit softer than what has historically been taught, you’ll never hurt a relationship. In fact, if you use our VIPS MethodTM one of three things will happen and one thing will never happen. Using our VIPS MethodTM to ask a client for referrals, the client will either give you referrals when you ask, give them later, or won’t give you referrals at all. But you’ll NEVER hurt the relationship.

What’s your fear? What’s your barrier? How are you protecting your belly
button? Figure that out and you’ll find the solution.

MISTAKE #7 – Not Using a Systematic Approach
How can you expect to build a thriving referral-based business if you’re only dabbling in referrals? Sure, you know what to do with a referral when you trip over one, but to create referral momentum, you need to employ a systematic approach on
a regular basis.

It’s like playing pool or billiards. In billiards, as you’re trying to make a particular shot, you’re also looking ahead to your next shot. You’re trying to leave your cue ball in position to make your next shot. In billiards, if you’re any good, one
shot will lead to the next.

That’s what you want to do with your referral process. You bring a prospect into your office, or go to theirs, and you convert them into a client. That’s good. But if you don’t have a simple referral process in place, then what happens? Do you have to
get back on the phone and make cold calls or call expensive leads? Do you have to gear up to do another seminar or another direct mail piece? Or maybe you just wait around for your next referral?

With a referral process in place – that you employ on a regular basis – you bring a prospect into your sphere of influence and convert then into a client in such a way that not only do they become a client, but they lead you to others. The good news
about referrals is that 1 client can lead to 2 and 2 can lead to 4 and 4 can lead to 8. With a steady referral process in place, your business grows exponentially.

Add Coment