Top 3 Reasons Why Clients Refer

In my career, I have had the pleasure of carrying out more than 15,000 diarised client meetings. I say diarised because there are many, many more phone calls and ad hoc conversations.

I have also been able to see and measure the data from a broad range of Service Businesses, interview many of their clients and go into detail with the survey / feedback results of those clients.

In case you hadn’t already noticed, I like to find the fundamental pattern in all things as they drive human behaviour.

In this case, I’m going to share with you what I have observed to be the top 3 reasons why clients do or do not actively refer.
Here’s a hint – one of the top 3 is not ‘because you ask them to’.

Empower the 5%

Based on my observations, roughly 5% of the population are directly inclined to set aside any perceived ‘fear of the experience’ in their actions and instead act based on what seems like a good idea or imperative to them.

It should be no real surprise then that the median percentage of services firms whose clients actively refer is 5%. If you have Advised clients for any length of time, you will be familiar with the people I am talking about.
What to do with this knowledge: Providing maximum leverage to your quota of natural advocates is just plain common sense. However, so many professionals fail to enhance and magnify the reach of their vocal clients through Social Media, video and other amplifier tools.

Cognitive dissonance

In simple terms and for the definition in play here, Cognitive Dissonance results from the discomfort felt when you expect one thing and experience another.

If as professionals we fail to explicitly set and manage the expectations of our clients, we inherently create an uncomfortable experience. Irrespective of the overall satisfaction of our clients, if they are experiencing internal dissonance they are far less likely to refer us on.

What to do with this knowledge: Create best practice workflows, training and accountability to ensure expectations are explicitly set and rigorously managed. Create multimedia such as videos and combine with automation technology like Infusionsoft so that the system supports the creation of detailed experience maps for your clients.

The number one reason why clients do or do not refer is based on how well they know the person they are referring personally.

In my experience, this factor has more impact than all of the other reasons combined (including the lesser reasons I have not shortlisted for this post).

I know this seems counter-intuitive for many professionals who go by the old adage of ‘keep it professional and focused on the client’, however, the truth is plain to see.

It is simply so much easier to refer based on character and personal connection than it is based on action and skill set. You may be the best service professional in the world but if you don’t ‘let your clients ‘in’ then you are making everything you do so much harder than it needs to be.

What to do with this knowledge: Open up, share your stories and experiences, show photos of your children and pets and more importantly let your clients know your ‘why’ and how you think and feel.

This is also the greatest benefit of effective social media. Without an exception for every professional I have seen increase their endeavours to authentically and personally connect with their clients through social media has been a corresponding dramatic upshift in referrals.

In summary

Your clients are people; they like to know what to expect when they get to your office or a week after they have first met you. More than anything they want to feel connected to and able to trust a real person, who gives them a sense of belonging to something more meaningful than just a paid discussion.

Social & Digital Media ‘done properly’ isn’t about marketing and creating more content with which to spam the world. It’s about scaling human interconnection, trustability and interpersonal touch points. It’s about enhancing at scale the things that have always worked for Relationship Professionals, and nothing works better to increase your value than your word of mouth and referrals.

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