Rainmaking Recommendation #131: The Psychology of Referrals

(Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/dream designs)

(Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/dream designs)

In the last Rainmaking Recommendation, I mentioned that there is one sure fire, free way to grow your book of business – referrals.  I also said that I would continue this conversation so that you create a systematized way to get the best referrals from clients, prospects and referral sources.

However, in order to move to that level, first I think it’s important for you to understand why people give, or don’t give, referrals.

Referrals represent a measure of the value that the person who is offering the referral puts on the service or product.  And giving referrals represent a risk to the person who is furnishing it of creating a rift in a relationship they value or are trying to build.  If the risk is small, they will not hesitate to give the referral.  However, if the risk is greater, then they will pause and think about.

When a person gives a referral they are, in essence, saying this is a service or product that I wholly endorse.  Yet, this could be a scary proposition to many referral sources.  The bigger the stakes in the outcome of the referral, the less likely they are going to make that referral unless they are absolutely sure that the end result will be good for the person to whom they are referring.

For example, giving you a referral to a restaurant that I truly loved is less risky than giving a referral to an attorney who can make or break a case or project.  If you have a bad meal at the restaurant that I enjoyed, no real skin off my back – it may have been the night, a different chef, etc.  You may mention to me that you didn’t enjoy your experience, but our relationship will continue – you just might not want to accept any more restaurant referrals from me.

However, if I send you to an attorney and things do not go well or expectations that I, as the referrer had promised, were not met, there is more skin in the game here.  Lots of money could be spent; cases could be lost, etc.   This could create problems for our relationship.

Each referral that is made is a reflection on the person who is offering the referral.

In order to mitigate the risk, you – the attorney – have to live up to the expectations and promises that the person who referred you has made about you to the other person to whom you were referred.  (However, how to do this is a topic for future blog; keep your eyes peeled for that.)

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