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Why Some Clients Won’t Give Referrals

by Bill Cates

I’m sorry to break this to you, but not all your clients are going to introduce you to others.

With that said, knowing why many clients don’t like to refer and what you can do about it can help you increase your chances.

I’ve been helping financial professional generate referrals and introductions for over 25 years. My unscientific observations are this:

20% of your clients will give referrals without you asking. As we will discuss in a minute, unsolicited referrals are a barometer of your referability.

60% of your clients will provide you with referrals and introductions if you are appropriately proactive.  Several of my past blog posts on asking can be found here.

20% of your clients will never give you referrals. You could run into a burning building to save their children and they still would not provide you with referrals.

3 Reasons Some Clients Don’t Give Referrals and What You Can Do About It

Reason #1 – You’re not Referable

After a speech several years ago, a financial professional confessed, “I’ve been in this business for 20 years and I just don’t seem to get many unsolicited referrals.”

I had to run for a flight, so I didn’t have time for the therapy session to help him see that he wasn’t as referable as he thought he was.

During my coaching sessions many professionals say to me, “My clients love me. But they’re not volunteering any referrals.”

My tactful response is, “Let’s get back to your statement ‘my clients love.”

Just like 73 percent of drivers consider themselves “above average,” is it possible that you are not as referable as you need to be?

The unsolicited referrals you receive are a barometer of your referability.

What You Can Do About It

Research has demonstrated that there is a low correlation between satisfied clients and the giving of referrals. The key to becoming super referable is creating engaged clients – clients with whom you’ve made a value connection and a personal connection.

Here are two past blogs to help you become super referable:


Reason #2 – They Don’t Know Your Process

Clients and prospects will not refer you if they don’t feel comfortable in how you will handle those referrals.

They want to know two things: 

1. you will protect their confidentiality, and

2. you will treat the connections professionally (so they won’t regret making the introduction).

What You Can Do About It

Whether you are seeking more unsolicited referrals or purposefully asking for introductions teaching all of your clients, prospects, and even your centers of influence how you handle this will increase your referrals.

Here’s a sample script from which you can formulate your own:

George, there’s something I want to run by you. Many of my clients like to introduce me and the work I do to others whom they care about. When that opportunity presents itself, it would be good for you to know how I handle introductions, so that everyone will feel comfortable.

I don’t like to contact people without them knowing a little bit about who I am and why I’m reaching out. I don’t like to surprise people and make them wonder, ‘Why did George give my number out to this person?’ Make sense? (“Sure does.”)

I’ve found that working through introductions is a much better way to proceed for everyone. So each time you identify someone you think should know about the work I do, you and I can craft an introduction that will feel comfortable to you and them, and perhaps pique their interest in hearing from me. How does that sound?

This is an easy “yes” for your client, puts them more at ease about your process, and will often generate introductions right on the spot.

Reason #3 – They’re Super Private

These may be the 20 percent I mentioned above. With that said…

What You Can Do About It

Even those clients are referral-reluctant, it doesn’t mean they aren’t great clients in all other measures. Continue to serve the heck out of them and a few may grow open to the process on their own terms.

Serve them well, let them know you’re never too busy to see if you can be a resource for others, and then let it go.

Here are some ways to promote introductions without asking for them.   

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