Why Asking for Referrals Ruins the Relationship

So I was thinking in my sleep this morning . . .

Yesterday I was at my hair salon, and saw Beth. I used to go to Beth. Now I go to Michael.

It happened pretty organically; I needed an appointment, Beth was out, the receptionist said Michael was available. The next time I called Beth was busy, but Michael was available.

I was afraid it would be uncomfortable, but Beth was cool. She stopped by, put her hand on my shoulder and said  "Looks great."

After awhile I stopped even asking for Beth. If Michael's not available I check another day.

Now, imagine you're Beth. How Could This Happen?

Here's an interesting piece of information: I was referred to Beth. By Amy. Amy still goes to Beth.

So, I was thinking in my sleep this morning . . .

and I remembered the last time Beth cut my hair. I was standing at the desk, paying, and Beth came up to me with four cards.                            "I've got space for a few more clients," she said.

You've been taught that script, right? Jason Wright uses a variation of it very successfully. "Here are three of my cards with your name on them," Beth said. "Give them to your friends. When they come in, I'll give them 20% off. When three of your referrals come in I'll give you a free haircut, and a free massage from Juan. This is Juan. He's terrific."

So I went back to the office, walked over to Amy, and said, "Look what I just got from Beth!"

Amy took the cards in two hands, looked at them, looked up and said, "She's never given me a free haircut, and I've referred more than three people to her. I sent you. And I sent Sarah.  And I sent Rebecca.  And I sent Diane." and she handed the cards back to me.

This is worth thinking about. This is what Dan Airely researched. If I have to choose between Beth and Amy, Beth loses. Every time. If I have to choose between benefit for myself and offending Amy, I opt out. Every time. Without even thinking about it.

So, I was thinking in my sleep this morning . . . and it occurred to me why asking for referrals backfires.

  • Years ago we were at a New Year's Eve party. As we walked in the host greeted us with"Mr. Important is coming! Isn't that great? We're so excited that Mr. Important would come to our party. It's going to be a great party  once Mr. Important gets here."

I remember thinking: Then we can leave. but I don't think I said it out loud.

Mr. Important never did show up.

I think we opted out of future invitations from them.

Don't you always want to feel like the important guest? Then how can there possibly be any benefit in telling guests they are less important than anyone else?

And it occurred to me in my sleep this morning . . .

that when Beth asked me to refer my friends to her, and offered 20% off - times three friends plus 100% off for me and a massage worth even more than that I heard her say that my [unknown] friends were more important to her than I was.

And when one of my friends felt left out, I opted out of Beth's party.

So the answer came to me in my sleep this morning . . . asking for referrals backfires because it makes the person being asked feel less important.