Generating Referrals with Reciprocity

Are referrals REALLY the lifeblood of your business?

A lot of sales training proposes to teach you the art of asking for a referral. One phrase many of them have in common? “Referrals are the lifeblood of my business…”  The statement is usually directly followed by an ask.

First of all, don’t do this exclamation points it’s tried and cheesy.

Also, lots of producers confuse the term “lifeblood” with the term “sole source of new business.”

Just because you’re living off referrals doesn’t mean you have a healthy practice, particularly if you’re not continually pumping new blood into the system.

If you look at your own circulatory system, you have both arteries and veins. Your heart is pumping out blood, and it’s getting blood back. Your heart generates pressure (blood pressure) by pumping blood into the system. If the pump isn’t working right, the system doesn’t work right – not enough input leads to not enough output.

No wonder a lot of producers can’t live off referrals – what are you putting into the system to create positive flow? If the answer is “not much,” it may be time to look at some ways to put reciprocity to work in your practice.

The dirty little secret of referrals

Here’s something most people don’t admit about referrals, especially the folks who get a lot of them. Nobody’s really asks for referrals!  I do ask for referrals, but that’s not how I usually get them.  In fact, they usually drop right out of sky. I’m not the exception, I’m the rule!

The reason referrals happen isn’t because you ask for them, it’s because people want to give them to you.  And the best producers I know, the ones that are conscientious about building a sustainable business, focuse on how to generate referrals by adding value to the system.  And the lifeblood of the system is reciprocity.

Putting Reciprocity to work

Reciprocity is, in the simplest terms, the desire to give as one receives. It’s why revenge exists, but it’s also why empathy dissolves hostility.  Reciprocity can also be why referrals happen!

Here are some straightforward ways top producers use Reciprocity to Generate Referrals:

  • Give referrals to get referrals. Most advisers miss this fundamental starting point – if you want to get referral someday, give a referral today. Plant the seed and set the expectation that we give referrals by modeling the behavior first, not asking for it from clients.  The beauty of Reciprocity is that the gift you give doesn’t need to be one they asked for or even need – it’s the act of giving that’s important.
  • Do your clients a favor. When you begin the dance by going out of your way to help a client, the wheels of reciprocity begin to turn. Top advisers I work with proactively look for opportunities to be of additional service to clients in meaningful ways and at important times. Of course it’s your business how personal you get with this idea, but even a little goes a long way towards creating reciprocity period.
  • Become a referral source yourself. One way you know you are  a true advisor to clients is when they come to you with off topic requests . Why? It’s because they see you as a resource with relevant connections. If that’s important to you, spend a little time and make sure you can offer a resource for anything from attorneys to dog groomers to beach reading.
  • Give your clients an unanticipated gift.  Research shows Clients feel the need to reciprocate gifts whether the gift was asked for or not! Again, a little goes a long way – in fact, I’ve experienced a threshold beyond which clients feel uncomfortable accepting a gift. Have you ever heard of the phrase, “a token of my esteem”? Yeah, that.
  • Separate the giving from the asking. This is very important:  we are not talking about buying someone a sandwich , and at the end of lunch asking for business on the basis of, “Hey, who bought you that sandwich?“ Research shows that when clients view your gift as a sales tactic, they don’t feel the need to reciprocate.
  • Earn it vs. asking for it.  Once again, you don’t get referrals by asking for them dash clients give you referrals because they want to. Clients want to reciprocate exceptional service and results.  It’s that simple.
  • Be authentic.  What’s also simple, but important enough to emphasize anyway, is the need for authenticity. Your ability to generate referrals depends on putting the client first and giving for the sake of giving.

In the end, the value you get from your network tends to mirror the value you give to your network. Focus on helping clients in these specific ways, and you’re generating referrals with reciprocity and not begging for favors.