Generating Referrals Like a Ninja…Without Asking!

As a small business owner, solopreneur, or sales professional, does the thought of asking for referrals make your skin crawl? Referrals are one of the most misunderstood ways of generating business today. Ramon Ray chats with Stacey Brown Randall, the referral queen, about how to get more referrals than ever without ever asking. 

“Referrals are something that everybody wants, but everybody only knows of one or two ways to get them,” says Stacey. 

Business owners have been taught that if you want referrals, you have to go out and ask for them. If you don’t want to ask for them, then you don’t get them. But what if you didn’t have to ask? Stacey’s methodology for getting referrals is probably something you’ve never heard before. Her new book, Generating Business Referrals Without Asking dives into the details of her process. But, she gives Ramon a little sneak peek into the art of getting referrals without asking. 

Reverse-Engineering the Referral

Stacey was starting her second business and in order to avoid another failure, she wanted a way to touch business development in a way that she actually wanted to do. “Anyone can cold call, I just don’t want to!” Stacey says she reverse-engineered the process of getting a referral and looked at the human dynamic and psychology behind it. Stacey found out from her research that, “there {are} other things you can do to trigger referrals and you never have to ask. And you don’t ever have to pay for them either.” She says you also don’t have to be overly-promotional or gimmicky, that you can be your true, authentic self. But, there is some work you have to do and some knowledge that goes along with that. 

Birth by Referrals

“You may not say it, you may not write, you may not even think it!” Not even in your email signature. Stacey says DON’T ASK FOR REFERRALS, period. 

This is revolutionary, and Stacey recognizes that. She admits that you’ve probably been told your whole life, at every sales training or marketing conference you’ve ever been to, every book you’ve ever read about referrals, is that you have to ask. But, she says, “the truth is, 98% of us don’t want to ask.” Which also means the people you’re asking probably don’t want to be asked. So, Stacey started asking, “why is that the only advice?”

Why Would You Refer Someone?

When a referral happens, “it’s not about someone helping us to grow our business, no matter how much they love us.” It has everything to do with someone they know who has a problem and they want to help them solve their problem. If you happen to be the person who can help solve that problem, then that’s a bonus for you.

You Need a Referral Plan

You should have a prospecting plan, a marketing plan, and a referral plan, advises Stacey. A referral plan is different because it has a different outcome. You’re trying to have a relationship directly with the referral source which indirectly puts you in line with the prospect. The referral plan is so different from the prospect plan and the marking plan because you’re speaking to a different audience. Stacey says that although this might seem complicated, making this distinction actually makes things really easy. 

According to Stacey, there are only 2 things you need to do to get referrals:

  1. You have to focus on relationships- people will refer you because you had an impact on them. 
  2. Deliver quality work- no one is going to refer you if your work is subpar. 

Delivering quality work speaks for itself and is something you should have mastered before you focus on referrals. Once you’ve got a handle on delivering quality work, start building your referral network by:

  1. Knowing who your referral sources are- you should be collecting that information in a database, and if you’re not, you need to start. Stacey has a whole chapter (Chapter 8) in her book on how to uncover your referral sources if you can’t push a button on your CRM and figure out who they are.  
  2. Staying top-of-mind with those who refer you- How do you stay memorable and meaningful in between them sending you referrals? That’s where you build your referral plan. 

“The Referral Experience”- a planned approach to outreach, or touchpoints. You do this year after year. They think about us subconsciously which benefits the referral process, but more importantly, what they’re feeling towards us is that we care about them. “You don’t remember what people said or what they do, but you do remember how they make you feel. That’s what we have to do, we have to be authentic and actually care about people. 

Stacey laughs, “so, if you’re dead inside, my program is not for you, nor are referrals.” 

If you’re truly thankful for what referral sources do for you, which is essentially dropping new clients in your lap, you should be taking care of them. Stacey shows people how to do that in a way that feels professional, but also authentic, and has a little bit of our personality wrapped up into it, and then also uses the right language, so they start thinking about us more and more from that referral perspective. 

Stacey has had people in her program for 5 years who get more referrals each year. She says its “the sustainability of those referrals showing up every year that gives you a little bit of peace of mind and starts building that ultimate freedom that most of us as business owners are actually after.”

4 Types of Referral Sources

Stacey says there are 4 types of referral sources. She focuses on helping businesses plan for and grow the first 2. The last 2 are nice to have, but not necessary to manage in your referral database.

  1. Clients Who Refer You- give extra love and touch-points to generate more referrals
  2. Centers of Influence- a subset of your network who don’t do what you do, but really understand what you do, and they come across your ideal client. They may never be a client, but they can still refer you.
  3. Friends and Family- these people will always send you referrals because they love you and you don’t have to include them in your referral process, but you can if you want to. Make sure your family and friends know what you do so they know who to send your way.
  4. Strangers- they are a stranger to you, you’re not a stranger to them. You’re impacting people you don’t even know and they are a part of your tribe.

How Can We Stay in Touch?

Referrals are all about maintaining relationships. With current referral sources its about more than staying in touch. It’s about trying to stay top-of-mind with them by showing thankfulness, appreciating, and acknowledging what they’ve done for you. 

If you don’t have referral sources yet, there are ways you can cultivate people into referral sources. But, Stacey give the disclaimer, “it takes work!” 

Roadmap to Grow Your Business

If you’re ready to start bringing in more business with referrals, Stacey says to look at the following to get started:

  • Who is your ideal referral source?
  • How is your relationship now and what are the things you can do for them?
  • Look to serve first.

We can’t all meet face-to-face with the people who refer us. But Stacey recommends that even in those cases, show people what you can do for them. “It’s not just a one-way street, we have to build these two-way streets with people.”

Above all, Stacey says, “Everybody deserves referrals, you’re just not owed them. You have to do the work.” 

If you want to get started with Stacey’s unique ask-free approach, start with the nine-question quiz on her website. You can figure out what level of a referral ninja you are right now generating referrals and start building your plan to grow your business through consistent referrals. 


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