Why you are not getting referrals from the clients who love you

First off, I understand that if you’re not getting referrals from clients who love you, there could be any number of reasons why. The human factor is a wild card and every situation is different. But I wanted to share a reason that might not have occurred to you.

I’ve talked about how to make it easy for your raving fans to refer you. For the purpose of this post, let’s assume you’re already doing everything you can to make this happen. Yet for some reason, certain clients are not coming through for you.

Mike Michalowicz, who wrote my favorite book of 2012, The Pumpkin Plan, and will be keynoting cadre’s upcoming event on November 15, suggests it could actually be that they love you so much, they don’t want to risk a dip in service if they share you with someone else.

Case in point: As the parents of a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old, Melanie and I are fortunate to have the world’s best babysitter. We can almost always count on her to be available, and more importantly, we can enjoy our time away knowing the kids are in great hands. I have had a few friends ask me to refer her to them. But you know what? I never have. If I make that introduction, it’s less likely she will be available for us when we need her. Perhaps this hurts her. Perhaps this hurts my friends. But she’s just too important to us. Selfishly, I don’t want to risk ever having her tell me she’s unavailable because she’s watching my friend’s kids.

This is just a fact of my life as a parent, as it might be for some of you. Yet I had never considered that this same dynamic could be at play in my business.

In The Pumpkin Plan, which is loaded with incredible business insights, Mike suggests that your clients don’t want to risk referring you to someone else because they want to keep you all to themselves. He also introduces a solution, which he calls “Tapping the Vendor Well.”

He writes about a realization he had one day: “If my top clients get me, and I get them, it stands to reason that they also have this relationship with other vendors who get them. And those vendors probably have a similar relationship with their own top clients. They may be concerned about referring you to prospective clients, but ‘matching you up with other vendors in order to serve them better’? That they can do. They want to do it.”

Mike would then contact these fellow vendors and say, “Larry referred me to you. We’re his Hedge Fund Technology Specialist, and I’m hoping we could meet so I can get your advice on how I should be working to make your job easier, and how we could both do a better job for Larry.”

This has not only enabled him to improve the quality of service he provides his clients; it has also led to numerous referrals from his clients’ vendors.

Have you ever considered that your best clients may not be referring you because they don’t want to share you? Have you ever tried getting introductions to your clients’ other vendors?

I will be sharing some other ideas from The Pumpkin Plan over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy, and plan on attending our Trim The Fat Fest on November 15.



  1. by Ian Altman on October 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Derek – Great insight. It certainly depends on the situation. Those of us who are cadre members know that other remarkable members make it a stronger community. So, even if it is a so-called competitor, then we just have to be clear where there is a fit.

    I have had clients tell me “I’d love to refer you to others, but we are afraid if we did that instead of winning against them, it could be an even match.”

    Flattering? Yes
    Frustrating? Yes

  2. by Derek on October 26, 2012 at 9:21 am

    Thanks Ian! As you continue to get busier and busier, I see this being more of a potential issue. (Given all of the value you add and that it is mostly driven by you.) This is a great problem to have though!

  3. by Jim Spiro on October 25, 2012 at 2:52 pm


    Great article. I have actually heard that from some of my clients! It’s good to know they think that highly of us but we need to grow our business. Will definitely pick up that book and try and make it to the November Cadre event.

    Jim Spiro

  4. by Derek on October 26, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Thanks Jim! I think your ability to communicate that you have others assisting you could help with this too. Hope to see you at the event!


  5. by Heike Yates on October 29, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    It is true for my business, my clients want me mostly for themselves but are willing to share their massage therapist etc. with me.

    After establishing a relation ship with those related businesses, I seem to be the one sending my clients to those businesses but not the other way around.

    It seems, they think of losing their business to me if their client is not using their services all the time.

    Strange to me because I believe in doing what’s best for the client and not stealing clients.

  6. by Derek on October 31, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Heike. I have a question for you. Do your clients get you at the same time each week (or every other week)? If they just call you whenever and ask for a random time (and you are available) that could be part of the problem. Maybe you could get them on a schedule (like a personal trainer). I’m not concerned about referring my PT clients because the 9:00 time slot is mine. Make sense? If I called you one week and asked for Tues at 2:00 and next week asked for Thursday at 4:00, that may contribute to my reluctance in referring you. Or, I am way off base, in which case you can ignore me. 🙂


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