For many, referrals are hopelessly difficult to come by. You hear the usual advice about how you have to ask for them and be proactive, etc. Anyone sane will tell you that referrals can make you the a happiest camper around. What makes them so hard to get? Is there anything we can do to control our referral destiny?

We have been schooled about all the things that will land us in the land of “Plenty of Referrals”. We have read about the 7 Laws, 5 Secrets, 3 Tips, and 35 Ways of getting more referrals. Experts told us countless times that referrals; are one of the best ways to grow our business, they are scary but you must ask for them anyway, you must provide excellent service to get it, and that you shouldn't’t be afraid to ask for them. “Just ask and you shall receive”, they say. What we hear ad nauseam about referrals all the time makes sense, yet it’s still too hard.

People want to get an answer to the question “Why don’t I get more referrals?.” Before we can get an answer we have to know our referral sources. They are our current and past customers, our friends and family, and people that like or trust us. Except for your mother, all of them can ask themselves. Why would I give you a referral? People are selfish, that means you too, and so are your referral sources. They understand that you want referrals, but what’s in it for them? Are you going to tarnish their reputation in the process? They might refer a family member to you and risk not being invited to next year’s 4th of July party because you screwed up. What if you do something that disappoints regardless how hard you have tried. If I recommend a divorce attorney to a friend who has some trademark concerns, she doesn't want a divorce attorney, uncomfortable. 

Giving a referral is hard. It is difficult to refer a friend to a bankruptcy attorney when you know he really needs one, a nutritionist to a colleague you know has been struggling with weight issues, or a financial advisor when you see he lives beyond his means. Sometimes the very act of giving a referral can create an uncomfortable situation.

You are responsible for creating messaging for your service that makes referring you easy. Yes, it is not your friend’s fault if he doesn't have an easy way to bring you up in a conversation. Offer something valuable to offer to friends. If you can come up with a unique service or a gift they can offer, not offering it to their friends will feel selfish. Some people will more likely refer to you if you pay a referral fee or provide some free service in return. I have recently referred a friend to file sharing site and they gave me one gigabyte additional storage space. Did I refer my friend for the extra storage space? No, but now that I know they reward me for my referral it will be easier to do so. Can you come up with something similar in your business?

Your mission should be to reduce the risk it takes to refer to you. Yes, it is very risky when we give referrals. Our reputation is on the line. If we disappoint a referred client there is a good chance that we can say goodbye to that referral source.

Be magnificent before you ask for a referral. Have you done everything in your power to be easily referable? Do you have an excellent reputation? Are your clients raving about you? Are you considered a leader in your space? Are you well respected? Do you have an interesting story behind you? Have you done everything in your power to differentiate yourself from the umpteenth competitor out there? Have you written a book on your expertise? Are you a speaker on the subject? Do you write and get published in places? Are you an innovator? What makes you unique enough to be referable? Because doing a good job is not always enough.

Are you grateful for your referrals or do you take them for granted? People want to know that you appreciate what they have done for you. When you take them for granted they will find someone else that appreciates them or just learn to ignore you. Be genuinely grateful for every referral you get, even if it doesn't turn into business. When someone takes the time to refer you, putting their reputation on the line for you, you must be touched. Yes, a referral  is an act of kindness. You have to realize that someone took the time from their busy life to help you out. Thank them early and often. If you show real appreciation, there is a chance that those referrals will keep rolling in.