How to Break Down Customer Referral Barriers

Business.com / Sales / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Customer referrals often leads to feelings of awkwardness and shame. How do we eliminate these barriers to get more referrals and leads?

Customer Referrals are embarrassing.

As several others have pointed out, the act of asking for a referral often comes with uncomfortable consequences. It's common for customers to experience feelings of shame, embarrassment or awkwardness.

Naturally these emotional barriers reduce the odds of getting a referral.

But why?

What creates these emotional barriers?

And why do some customers love to refer the companies that serve them?

A study by Advisor Impact found that an overwhelming 98% of customers gave referrals to help their friends and family. Only 2% stated it was because they were asked.

Your customers want to help those they care about.

But the typical referral process creates 3 big barriers that prevent customers from doing that. These barriers create awkwardness and anxiety for your customers, dramatically reducing the number of referrals they send your way. 

Related Article: Get 4x More Referrals from Your Customers, Automatically

Barrier #1: I don't know what makes you special or unique.

Customers may know enough about your product or service to buy it. But that doesn't mean they know enough about your product to sell it to someone else.

This lack of understanding dampens the emotions they'll need to transfer their enthusiasm to another customer. They don't know what they're talking about so fear replaces the confidence they should have, insecurity replaces excitement.

Barrier #2: I'm uncomfortable with selling for you.

It's common for customers to hold the belief that selling is dirty; that it's inherently sleazy, manipulative or dishonest.

So it's natural for customers to have all sorts of hang ups about sales. Imagine then how difficult it would be for them to approach and sell someone they already know. 

Barrier #3: I don't know what to say.

The vast majority of customers don't receive the training, guidance or support they need. They're goaded into sharing referrals or making introductions; then when they do, they're lost.

They have no idea about what to say, when to say it or how to start. So they fidget and fumble over their words. They struggle with feelings of shame and embarrassment which turns into resentment afterwards.

As a result, each barrier comes with short and long term consequences. When it's painful for customers to refer others they stop, plain and simple.

Related Article: How to Develop and Maintain Client Relationships

So how do you remove these barriers?

1. Focus your customer's attention on the problem.

Customers come to you with lots of problems. Here's where most people make a mistake. They try to focus customer attention on each and every problem or they push them towards the wrong problem.

What's the right problem?

The biggest one. Talk to your ideal customer. Get a sense of their biggest problem. Then focus on that. Educate your customers; wrap their brain around the biggest problem. Make it simple for them to point to you as the solution.  Help them understand the finer points on what makes your solution unique.

2. Teach them to educate instead of sell. 

Customers hate selling, but referrals won't happen without it. How are you supposed to get referrals (customers) to buy without it?

With education.

Education attracts customer attention. But it only works if your education isn't considered "noise." Use the big problem along with emotion and psychological triggers to draw your customers in automatically. 

3. Make it comfortable for them to say nothing.

Customers shouldn't have to talk to make the referral. How are you supposed to get the referral then?

With leverage.

Use the big problem and your solution to create an education piece. Make it physical, tangible and non-digital; make it shareable. It can be a book, pocket guide, mp3 or video, as long as it generates referrals without needing the customer's (or your) involvement.

Customers refer even with these barriers

Some customers are willing to go the extra mile. They'll go over, under, around or through any barriers if they're a loyalist.

But most customers aren't this way.

They've been burned. Maybe they were asked to share a referral without understanding what they were sharing. It could be that the whole idea of "selling you" turns them off. You'll need to remove these barriers if you want more referrals.   

What if you do this and you still can't get referrals?

There's more to referrals than just barriers. You'll need referral incentives, a follow-up system and tools that create leverage. Removing barriers won't work in a vacuum. 

Referrals should be easy and enjoyable

It shouldn't create feelings of shame, embarrassment or awkwardness. Remove these barriers and you'll find that customers are naturally more receptive and open to referrals. Create a referral system and you'll have all the referrals you need.

Want to 4x your referrals? Download our referral guide (no opt-in required).

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