In today’s episode, we’re going to delve into the wonderful world of referral marketing with Stacey Randall.  We all know that we should be working on getting great referrals and at the same time, it’s one of the worse things that every salesperson does.

Stacey is going to help us look at the world of referral marketing in a completely different light.  Before our recording started Stacey promised me I would have a completely different view about referrals after our conversation.  You need to listen to this episode to find out if you agree with Stacey and you now know how to love referral marketing.

I know I have a love-hate relationship with referral marketing and after this episode, my attitude towards referrals switched a little bit.

Here are some of the things you’ll learn during today’s episode:

  • A review of why referrals are important.
  • How to get referrals without asking, my favorite part of the episode.
  • Learn why you need to pay attention to customer attraction every day in your business.
  • Find out why marketing is one of the two things that drive value in your business.
  • Find the secret to what it takes for you to keep yourself top of mind with potential customers.


Narrator:         Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful.

Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.

Josh:                Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business show.

My guest today is Stacey Brown Randall. She is an expert in referral marketing. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. A really nice setting except it’s too darn hot, in my opinion. We just spent the last five minutes or so talking about the wonders of the food business because it turns out her family’s been in the restaurant business for a zillion years. She, unfortunately, has had a business failure and through that has come out and become more accomplished, I guess, or consistent, or sustainable through the lessons she’s learned.

Today, we’re going to talk about the wonderful world of referral marketing. She promises me that at the end of the broadcast, you’re going to be really happy we talked about this. Let’s bring Stacey in and we’ll start talking about the wonderful world of referral marketing.

Hey, Stacey. How are you today?

Stacey:            I am doing great. Thank you so much for having me.

Josh:                My pleasure. Let’s start out with this. Why should I want to do referrals?

Stacey:            You know, Josh, when most people ask me about referral marketing, they kind of get it in terms of referrals are great because it’s really like someone – a potential new client dropping into your lap that you didn’t have to do too much work for. It wasn’t someone you had to cold call or go to a zillion networking events to eventually meet. You didn’t have to spend a bunch of money on mailers in the mail that would actually arrive in their mailbox. You didn’t have to send a bunch of cold e-mails.

They understand that they’re such value in having a referral because they are usually easier to close. They are usually less price sensitive because they already value you because somebody else had said, “Hey, that’s who you should be working with.” They really, truly are yours to lose when someone has referred them into you.

I find that most people get it in terms of why we should care and why we should want more referrals. It’s typically the “How do we do it? And, particularly, how do we do it without asking?” that stumps most people. If they don’t get the right advice, they typically get the advice of “you’ve got to ask”, so then they’re just not interested because asking for a referral feels like a cousin to picking up the phone and having to make a cold call.

Josh:                I think I’d rather make a cold call.

Stacey:            Well, I don’t want you doing either. I don’t want you asking and I don’t want you cold calling.

Josh:                Okay, so if I’m not asking, what am I doing?

Stacey:            That’s the beauty of my system in what I’ve kind of figured out in terms generating referrals. I’ll tell you this, I didn’t start out to be someone who has really grown their knowledge and their expertise in how to generate referrals. That wasn’t actually how I got started.

When my business failed and I looked back over my first business – when it failed, and I looked back over what I did wrong, what I realized is I never touched business development every day. I hadn’t figured out a way to touch business development every way in a way that works for me. In a way that I’m actually willing to do it because there’s things I’m not willing to do.

And so, when I kind of figured out, “Well, what am I willing to do” because business doesn’t grow on trees and it doesn’t just show up. I thought, “Okay, so I’ve got to figure out a way to bring in business.” I liked everything I heard about referrals except for the fact that you’re supposed to ask for them. That’s been the decade-old advice we’ve been receiving is that, “You’ve just got to ask.”

My favorite part of that is, “And if you won’t ask, Josh, it’s your problem.” That’s terrible. To me, none of that made sense. And I was like, “This can’t possibly be right.” When I had the opportunity to go out and start my next business, I told myself, I was like, “I’m going to figure out how to generate referrals. I’m going to figure out a way to do it without asking.” I did it because I needed a business to be successful. I did it because of sheer necessity. I could not have another business failure. I didn’t want to go through that again and I didn’t want to have to go back to the 9-to-5 job, working for the man because that’s what I had to when my first business failed.

And so, I had to figure out a way to make this business that I’m in now successful. And it turns out I did figure out a way to generate referrals without asking. It was great. It was working really well for my business and productivity coaching practice. Then my clients, who were small business owners, started asking me, “What are you doing to get all these referrals?” I started teaching them what I had learned. And then they started having success. And then I kind of transitioned my company into really just focusing on teaching other people how to generate referrals without asking. It’s just not as hard as most people think but you do have to know what to do and then understand what order to do it in and what language to use while you’re doing it.

Josh:                Okay, so I don’t want you to expose all your secrets but I would like to find out what is it I should be doing besides asking.

Stacey:            The first thing I always tell folks is, “You have to stop asking if you are asking” because, unfortunately, you have built a reputation for yourself. If you’re asking all the time, you’ve become that guy or that girl who’s always asking. It’s like the person who approaches you at a networking meeting and you’re like, “Oh, no. How do I get out of this because they’re just going to talk about themselves and ask me for things that I’m not prepared to give them.”

I always tell folks, “If you’re asking, the first thing you need to is stop. The second thing you need to do is you actually need to go back.” And then I tell folks, “It’s really easy, kind of five steps. And I’ll lay out the five steps for you.” I always tell folks, “The secret sauce for what I do is all wrapped up in step #3.”

The five steps to generate referrals without asking, If we’ve stopped, so let’s assume– okay, we’re not asking. Either we’ve never asked or we’re just stopping asking. The first thing you have to do is you have to identify who has actually referred you. Who are your referral sources? If you’ve received referrals in the past, those people who have referred you a client, they’re your referral sources. I’d like to start there because it gives us a baseline from which to start to go to identify your referral sources.

The second step is that you’ve got to figure out how to categorize those folks because someone who sends you 10 referrals in a year, to be honest, they are a little bit more valuable than someone who just sends you one or two referrals in a year. Not everybody you know is going to send you a referral. And certainly not all your clients will or everyone in your network.

We want to know who the people are and then we want to be able to categorize them in a certain way so that when we do step 3 we understand what we’re going to do for each of these categories or each of these groups of our referral sources. I tell folks, “Aim somewhere between three groups, two groups, maybe one group if you don’t have a lot of referral sources.” But it’s all dictated by how many referrals received.

Then we move into step 3. Now, we know who’s referred us. We’ve kind of categorized them. If we have enough, we can categorize them.

And we move into step 3 which is we want to create a referral experience. A referral experience is all about focusing on building relationships with our referral sources through ongoing connections or what I refer to as ongoing touch points that keep us top of mind, not keeping us in touch. Top of mind is totally different from keeping us in touch.

I want you focused on this referral experience, these touch points that you’re going to do for your identified referral sources. I want you to figure out what you can do that’s memorable and meaningful that keeps you top of mind. There’s a few platinum principles I always tell people we have to build this experience around so that we keep the focus on the right person during this process which is the referral source because it’s not about us.

And then step 3 is, what does that experience look like? And then when you’re actually doing the out rates with those touch points, building those connections in that relationship, what language are you using to plant referral seeds? It’s usually really basic stuff but it’s not stuff most people had talked about. I tell folks, “That’s kind of my secret sauce. It’s really understanding, Okay, what does it look like to plant those referral seeds so we’re never having to ask?”

And then from there, step 4 is , okay so this great plan – this great referral experience we just built, how do we automate it so that we’re not doing all this work. We can automate everything. Some things you have to put your own touch on.

And then step 5 is, all right, let’s track it and see how we’re doing and measure our success because I’m not just interested in how many referrals you’ve received when you’re doing the program or following the system. I’m actually more interested in the, “Yes, the number of referrals you receive but how many referral sources that were sending you one or two referrals, now that they’re kind of being put through this referral experience, how many of them are now sending you five or six? So you’ve moved them up from a lower level to an upper level in that step to categorization of our referral sources.

It’s really simple. I think people go through it and they find it more simple than it probably sounds when I’m explaining. It is a truly simple process.

Josh:                You want to keep yourself as top of mind?

Stacey:            Yes.

Josh:                What would you be doing if you were to keep yourself top of mind?

Stacey:            Sure. So I’ll give you a great example. A couple of years ago, for a Mother’s Day, one of my referral experience touch points that I do every year for my referral resources is that I recognize   Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Now, for those referral sources that don’t have children, of course, I like to recognize the start of summer. I always tell people, “You’ve got to look for ways where you can be memorable and meaningful.” I call it “Remembering Your m&m’s”, thinking about the candy – the m&m’s.

You want to be memorable and meaningful. You want whatever you do to have an impact on them. Well, it can only have an impact on them if it’s all about them.

Two or three years ago, for Mother’s Day, I sent all of my referral sources that happened to be working moms, or owned their own business, or working professional because that’s technically all my referral sources are. I all sent them all a Wonder Woman water bottle. My logo was nowhere on that water bottle. It was just a Wonder Woman water bottle and there was a note attached to it that they could remove that just said, “Never forget you are a hero. Happy Mother’s Day! Stacey”.

And so, they knew, by receiving that water bottle, who it was from. But that water bottle was all about them. It was me recognizing them, “Hey, I know what it’s like to be a working mom.” And, of course, on Father’s Day, I did something different for the dads but it was about being impactful.

Those women who received that  Wonder Woman water bottle, it’s been a couple of years and they still remember that I sent them that water bottle. And every time they pick it up to use it or more likely if they see their daughter running around with it, I had some say, “I need a new one, my daughter just stole mine.” They remember me. I stay top of mind because I was memorable and meaningful.

It wasn’t an e-mail I sent that said, “Hey, how are you?” trying to keep in touch. I did something that had an impact on them that met them where they are, told them, “I see you. I’m paying attention to you.” And it was authentic to something I’m very comfortable doing. And so, it works when you have those ingredients  together.

When people go through my program with me, I always tell them and I give them tons of ideas on what memorable and meaningful looks like. It’s all about, “What do we think they want or need?” and not what do I want to give them because when you keep the focus on your referral source, you typically come up with the best ideas.

Josh:                How does a referral source know when to refer you and what to refer you for?

Stacey:            That’s a great question. I get that a lot. I always tell folks, “It’s not my referral sources or your referral source’s job to know exactly how to qualify somebody before they send them to you.” I actually always tell folks, “Focus on quantity first. We’ll focus on quality later, once we’ve built the habit in that referral source of sending people to you.”

Typically, how a referral happens is our referral source is talking to someone else and they mention a problem, a pain, something they’d like to solve. In that referral source, in that moment, you want to be top of mind so that your name comes up in their mind as a solution to solve that person’s problem.  If you’re talking to someone and they’re like, “Well, I’m just not bringing in enough business. I’ve got to figure out a way to get new clients. I really wish I could do it other than cold calling.” One of my referral sources would naturally say, “Oh, well what about referrals? Do you get any business from referrals?” And they may say, “No, but I’d love to.” And they’re like, “Oh, well, then you’ve got to talk to Stacey.” And then they would connect us.

And so, it’s making sure that you have enough referral sources that (a) know what you do and (b) come across the type of people who could use your services which means– let me just use this as an example, I don’t have a bunch of referral sources that only hang out with executives at companies. Most of my referral sources are small business owners because that is actually, for me, who my ideal center of influence or referral source actually is. They’re people who are hanging out with other business owners that that topic’s going to come up. I cultivate those relationships on purpose, not just some HR executive sitting at a Fortune 500 company. That person’s not probably going to be talking to a whole bunch of small business owners or entrepreneurs that want to generate referrals.

It’s about understanding the right type of referral source because they will put themselves in situations where they’ll talk to people about their problems. And then when it comes into client-generation referrals, I want to be the name that comes to mind. But I don’t want my referral source sitting there talking to Tony who has this problem with client generation. I don’t want them sitting there thinking, “Well, are you a good fit for Stacey? Should I send you to Stacey? I’m not really sure if you’re the right fit for her.” I just want them saying, “Talk to Stacey.” I will figure out everything else in the back end if I can help them.

Josh:                It’s natural for a referring source to be asking themselves, “Is this the right person?” How do you get referral sources to get rid of that question, just say, “Send them to me and I’ll worry about it.”

Stacey:            It’s actually just using that language. This is typically going to happen in two ways, right? When I have somebody who reaches out and says, “Hey, I want to introduce you. I want to connect you or refer you to someone who I think you could use but I don’t know if they’re the right fit.” I always just say back what you said, “Hey, you know what, figuring out if I can help them, that’s my job. And if I can’t help them, I want you still to connect them to me so that I can figure out what direction to point them in. And, of course, I’ll let you know kind of what happens.” That usually is all the referral source needs to know to be like, “Okay, great. I’ll just refer you and then you can figure it out.”

If a referral source doesn’t tell me that they’re struggling to figure out who’s the right referral or not for me, I typically just don’t see a bunch of referrals coming in from that person. I mean, there’s definitely referral sources out there that I know that they may be thinking that and without them telling me, “Hey, this is what I’m struggling with.” It makes it a little harder to know that’s what the issue is. But anytime I’m having a conversation with my referral sources, I always just tell them– we’re just talking about it or whatever and they’re like, “Hey, how’s business?” I always say, “Oh my gosh, it’s great. It’s growing by referrals. I get these referrals all the time. They’re not always the right fit but that doesn’t matter. It’s my job to figure out if they are.” I try to find the right language. That’s one of the things I teach in my program is I try to find the right language for myself and others to use so that we can start cultivating that conversation.

Josh:                Where does the world of competence fit in because I know that, you know, at least this is one of the reasons I think people don’t give referrals is there’s a huge trust factor there and if the person you referred to does a lousy job, it’s not the person doing the lousy job that gets the black eye, it’s the referrer that gets the black eye.

Stacey:            The referral source.

Josh:                How do you get people over that hurdle?

Stacey:            A true, real issue that people I think deal within their own minds, they don’t necessarily talk about it. I think it’s true. How unfortunate it is that the referral source is the one that has to worry about what type of job someone else is going to do and if it’s going to damage their relationship with this person they want to refer in to somebody else.

Here’s what I always tell folks, “The easiest place to generate referrals is actually your clients because they know the job that you do.” It’s also within centers of influence. Centers of influence are just a special group within your network that actually know what you do and are actually in a position to come across people who would need your business. And so, it’s like focusing in on them when you’re trying to generate more referral sources.

I always just kind of look at it from that perspective as, is that, if I do great work – and that’s a strong referral foundation I teach everybody, “It’s the one thing I can’t teach you or help you with is you have to know how to do great work. If you do great work, you will have the reputation of someone who does.” Great work doesn’t mean things don’t go wrong because they will. Something will happen. It will not always go according to plan. But how you fix it says more about your character than the fact that it happened in the first place.

Really, I find that it’s being more proactive than reactive in that situation. Being more proactive is like giving a great client experience, having conversations with your clients that you’re building that right reputation and buzz that they are happy with your service. And then always making sure that the referral source knows kind of what your process looks like, what your system looks like, about how you work with people and how you take care of them.

But the reality of it is, a referral source isn’t going to trust you until they’ve referred you for the first or second time and they’ve kind of seen how it’s gone. That’s why I always tell folks is that, “You’ve got to do great work so you have the right brand, and the right buzz, and the right kind of  reputation in the market place so that people want to work with you and want to refer you because they know that you’re going to do great work. But it all starts with you actually doing great work.

And so, if our referral source has a hesitation, I always think you should address this head on, if they share the hesitation with you. The problem is, most referral sources won’t tell you they’re hesitating to refer you because they don’t know how you are going to be. They’re not usually going to tell you that. I always tell folks, “It’s like if you’re doing great work, you can overcome that.”

But if a referral source comes and says, “I’m a little uncomfortable referring not knowing what this looks like”, you should be willing to walk them through your process like they were a client so they can get more comfortable about what does that client experience actually look like. And if they referred someone to you, what would it look like and how would they go through it? But it’s all in the language you use. That language is so critical.

Josh:                So how would you get somebody to refer to you for the first or second time? I mean, I get that once someone’s referring to you, it’s relatively easy for them to keep doing that. But that first or second referral that you’re asking for from somebody, that’s a tough one to get. How do you teach people to do that?

Stacey:            It really is. And I think it all comes down to the trust factor. As you mentioned earlier in your question before, is that they have to trust you. They have to know that you do great work.

What I find is is that not everybody you work with will refer you. Not all the people you know in your network or even your centers of influence will refer you. Typically, I tell folks, we’re looking for the 30%that will.

I’m not trying to change the 70% to refer me if they’re not built for that. That doesn’t mean that if I don’t take them through a system and a process that I can’t turn them into referral sources. I’m naturally starting with the ones that are really that 30% that are already natural connectors, that are already the type of people when you sit down with them and you have coffee with them, they’re like already thinking. You can kind of see the wheels turning in their head and they’re already thinking about, “Okay, so who can I actually refer this person to? Or, who can I introduce them to? Or, hey, have you met–?” When someone starts saying, “Hey, have you met so and so?” I know they’re kind of already primed to think like this in terms of referrals. And so, that’s kind of a focus point that I always pay attention to.

But also with my clients, I always know that there’s always a chance that they had the opportunity to refer them. The language I use with them in the beginning is just thank you for your support. Then, of course, once they’ve referred to me, it’s more likely for me to say, “Thank you for referring me to so and so.” It really comes down to your ability to just recognize the people who have a better chance of being the type of connector or the type of person who’s going to refer you.

And then, the other easy thing to do is to always make sure you’re talking about referrals without ever asking. Just talking about how your business grows. If you tell somebody and they ask you the question, “How’s business?” The typical response is, “It’s great. It’s busy. Oh, I’m overwhelmed. Or, oh, it’s going so well” or whatever. I always tell folks, “That’s not the right response.” The right response is that your business is growing, if that’s in fact true. We don’t want to lie. “It’s growing and it’s growing through referrals and you just got X, Y, Z referral lately.” Sometimes, just planting that seed with somebody’s who’s never referred you before is enough for them to be thinking about you in a referral perspective.

Again, it’s not like I’m going out thinking, “Okay, I’ve got to turn four people into referral sources today.” It’s not how it works. It’s more of a long-term play and you have to have some sustainability with it as you’re cultivating these people to become referral sources and then continuing to cultivate the relationship with them so they continue to refer you.

Josh:                It makes perfectly good sense to me.

Stacey, we are just about out of time. I’m going to bet some of the people listening today are going to want to find you and learn more about how you can teach them to be a great referral marketer. How do they do that? Where would they go?

Stacey:            Absolutely. You can always go to my website and find great information. But what I will do is I will create a special link for your listeners and the Facebook folks where they can go. It’s going to be called GrowthByReferrals. That’s referrals with an s. They’ll be able to go to that page and I have a great free report they can download called the Seven Deadly Sins of Generating Referrals.

We talked about one of those which is asking for referrals. There’s actually six other ones that people do that impact their ability to generate referrals in a negative way. There’s the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven No No’s – what not to do when you want to generate referrals. They can download that.

They can join my free Facebook group, Referrals Without Asking. And I have a great quiz that they can take to figure out are they a referral ninja beginner or a referral ninja master in their ability to actually generate referrals. There are some great resources that come along with moving you up to the mastery level for those that are interested. That will be at

Josh:                Cool. Thanks so much, Stacey. I appreciate it.

I also have an offer for you. One of the things we have been talking about is referrals which is a subset of one of the five pillars of a sustainable business. That’s having a recurring revenue stream. If you’re  getting referrals on a regular basis, you will have a recurring revenue stream.

I have an offer for you. It’s a one-hour free audio CD. It’s really easy to get. Take out your smartphone – if you’re driving, you wait til you stop driving before you take out your smartphone, and you text the word SUSTAINABLE to 44222. That’s the word SUSTAINABLE to 44222. You’re going to get a link. You click on that link and you give me your name and address and we mail you the audio CD. If you happen to be one of those poor souls that’s bought a car recently that doesn’t have a CD player in there, just send me an e-mail at and I will send you an audio file so you can listen to it.

This is Josh Patrick. You’ve been at the Sustainable Business. Thanks a lot for coming around today. I hope to see you back here really soon in the near future.

Narrator:         You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around 100 years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802‑846‑1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at, or you can send Josh an e-mail at

Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.


Topics: sustainable business podcast, Marketing, Sustainable Business, podcast, Sales, referrals, referral marketing

Posts by Tag

See all

Subscribe Here!