The 3 Laws of Referral Generation

Just as the laws of physics govern behavior in the physical world, there are some pretty specific “laws” that lie behind the referral generation process:  The Law of Specificity, The Law of Reciprocity and The Law of Influence.  These laws govern, in large measure, whether or not we are able to create a predictable stream of referred clients to our business.

Let’s talk, first, about the Law of Specificity.  In a previous blog post, I suggested that the most effective way to network is to be an AMBASSADOR for your referral partners, always seeking to connect the people you meet to the people they need to know.  The trick here is this: In order to be successful in that role, your referral partners really need to tell you what you are looking / listening for!

My marketing mentor, Justin Livingston, once shared with me that marketing to “everyone” and “anyone” as if they were a prospect was a surefire way to insure that NO ONE would become my client!  It seemed so counter-intuitive given the sales training I had received… you see, I was taught that anyone within 3 feet of me was a potential client and that a “good salesperson” made sure that they told everyone they meet about their products and services!  What that advice didn’t take into account is how the brain actually works!

As it turns out, casting a wide net means the brain doesn’t know what to look for, so it doesn’t look for anything!  By contrast, if you ask for something specific, we can pick it out in a crowd!  Years ago, I taught a workshop that included the importance of defining a specific Target Market for creating a predictable revenue stream by referral.  At the end of the first day, I asked everyone to bring back a picture of a car with 4 wheels for the next day’s training.  Seems pretty easy, right?  But, lo and behold, the next day, NO ONE came back with a picture!  When I asked why, I got several different answers:

  • “Oh, man, I forgot all about it!”
  • “I didn’t know what exactly you wanted.”
  • “There were too many cars to choose from.  It was overwhelming.”

At the end of Day 2, I told a story about a TV commercial I saw years ago.  It featured supermodel, Heidi Klum, loping out of a NYC club and sliding into her RED, CADILLAC, CTS.  The tagline: “When you turn on your car, does it return the favor?” I told everyone in the room that I was DEFINITELY the target market for that car:  Middle-aged mom who still wants to feel vibrant and, well, sexy!  I sent them off to snap a picture of a RED, CADILLAC, CTS for use on Day 3.  Can you guess how many people brought back a picture of that RED, CADILLAC, CTS?  If you said no one, you’d be right — except for this one caveat:  80% of the participants snapped a photo of something.  Red Lexus.  Black Cadillac CTS.  Red Cadillac STS.  And each one said:  “I couldn’t find exactly what you asked for.  Is this good enough?”

You see, specificity isn’t about who you are selling to, it’s really just about giving your referral partners something to look for.  A standard by which they can compare what you’ve asked for to what they have.  So, when it comes to helping your referral partners grow their book of business and expand their COI (Center of Influence), press them to be specific so you know what look for and help them do the same for you by describing your IDEAL client!

One more thing:  I knew that the Law of Specificity really worth leveraging when I got a call from a car wholesaler in my network this time last year who said:  “Hey!  I finally found your car!”  “What car,” I asked. (I wasn’t really in the market for a new car.)  “That RED, CADILLAC, CTS everyone says you are looking for!”  Needless to say, while I don’t look any more like Heidi Klum now than I did then, I am driving my dream car! Oh, and that wholesaler?  He was never a participant in that workshop.  I guess word travels fast when you are specific!

About the Author: The Referral Diva

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