Handling Objections: A Strategy for Referrals!

You worked your way up to asking a client for a referral and, after a bit of squirming, you made the request…only to hear an evasive response:

I can’t think of anyone.
I don’t know anyone.
I never give referrals.
Let’s see how things go for a while.
Everyone I know is already working with someone.
Everyone I know has no money.
Everyone I know is old like me.
I can think of some people, but let me talk with them first.
I never discuss finances with my friends.
Give me some business cards and I’ll pass them around for you.

While a great deal of what I teach in my Mastering Client Referrals program is how to discuss introductions in a way that trumps these evasive responses (such as asking to talk with specific people instead of the buckshot “who do you know?…”), objections will come, no matter what.

But we can also break down what’s really happening when we get these “ANRs” (Automatic Negative Responses).  The “I can’t think of anyone” objection just needs some direction from you.  Over the years, I’ve found that most of the others are smokescreens for the four real reasons clients raise them:

1.  They’re not sure how you’ll deal with people to whom they might refer you.  Will you stalk or badger them?  Will you try to pressure them into buying from you?

2.  They don’t yet fully trust you.  The old adage that clients need to know, like, and trust you has truth to it!  This trust comes when clients feel you’re fully serving their interests and that you care about them.

3.  They’re not sure how their friends, family members, or associates will respond to being referred.  Even if they trust you to be the kindest and gentlest of professionals, they worry whether the people in their lives will resent being referred.

4.  They’ve had a bad experience with referrals in the past.  There’s always a perceived risk that an unsuccessful referral can damage a friendship.  If there’s already a story in which that was the case, the client will be even more uncomfortable with making new introductions.

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It is important not to try to have a pithy reply for any of these responses.  Instead, you want to find out more about the underlying objection, in the following sequence:

1.  Ask permission to explore.  “I’m sorry if my bringing this up has made you uncomfortable.  Do you mind if I ask you why?”

If the response is “I just don’t know you well enough” (which might have been expressed at first as “Let’s see how things go for awhile”), you can say something like this:

“I would love to build the kind of relationship with you where you would want me to help your friends and family members.  What do I have to do to make that happen?”

2.  Explore.  If the response is that your client has had a bad experience, ask her to tell you about it.

If it is concern about how you’ll deal with her friends, or how they’ll react to you, move directly to the next step.

3.  Reframe.  Point out the positive experience this client has already had with you.  Then ask, “Would it help if I explained to you how I would approach and work with a friend or family member?”

Explain your process, highlighting the help you’d provide and the lack of any kind of “sales” pressure.

4.  Move ahead, or leave the door open.  Ask if the explanation has helped.  Depending on the response, either go back to asking about people who might need your help, or simply ask permission to talk about introductions again in a few months.

The important thing to remember is not to fight objections, but to ask about them instead.  For better results, just keep REACHING…

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