Use Customers for References Not Referrals

16 Feb

Two recent postings by Jan Visser and Paul McCord got me thinking about how to best use customers to increase your business. As the chart from eMarketer below says, business decisions are heavily influenced by colleagues’ word-of-mouth. Naturally, sales people try to get referrals from their customers to gain new ones. After all, they’re the best referral you can get! But as Paul pointed out, having your customer say, “Give so-and-so at this company a call and use my name” is often not much more than a cold call. Paul and I agree that it’s much better if they contact so-and-so and make the introduction directly. But they often won’t.


Why is this? Why won’t customers give you referrals? Or as Paul prefers to ask, “Why won’t customers make introductions for you?” There are several reasons but the primary one is that customers don’t really know how. It’s not in their DNA to voluntarily call someone up and tell them about your solution. However, they will respond to a request for feedback on your solution.

The chart says that the top influence on buying decisions is from colleagues. However, the chart does not suggest if the buyer received a call or made the call. I will bet that it’s the buyer making the call to their buddy, “Hey, do you have any thoughts on this product?” or “I have this problem, do you have any idea on how to solve it?” Since Customers often give references instead of making referrals, why not use them that way? If customers are uncomfortable making referrals/introductions then don’t use them that way. Get your referrals somewhere else and let your customer give the reference.

Expect your customers to receive calls on your behalf but not make them on your behalf.


3 Responses to “Use Customers for References Not Referrals”


  1. Inquisix - Selling by Referrals » Blog Archive » Golden Rule of Networking - July 29, 2008

    […] Burg is the author of Endless Referrals and together they discussed why a systematic approach to building referrals was so […]

  2. Trusted Referrals™ - Connect to MORE Business | Inquisix » Blog Archive » Successful Referrals Require More than Just Your Reputation - May 26, 2009

    […] says that clients don’t like to give referrals. I agree, I think they’re much better at being a reference then pro-actively giving you a refe…  But referrals can be earned and Paul details the “how” which mostly revolves around […]

  3. Trusted Referrals™ – Connect to MORE Business | Inquisix » Blog Archive » Can I Date Your Sister? - July 10, 2009

    […] Very nice article by Michael Katz about why asking your clients for referrals is a bad idea. His analogy is that asking customers for referrals is like someone asking you if they can date your sister. As I’ve written before, I agree about not asking your customers for referrals and instead ask them to be references. […]

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