True or not true? Asking someone to become your referral partner is scary.

If you said true, you’re not alone.

Fearful woman under covers

How scary it is to ask someone to send you referrals depends on your comfort level. The more you practice the better you get, and that’s something you can build on. Even if asking for referrals doesn’t seem to come naturally, you can train yourself to do it comfortably enough — and it might even become fun!

Let’s do a little imagining. Picture yourself talking business with a colleague and you realize you share a target market. You think how nice it would be to help each other find business. You suggest becoming referral partners, and outline the reasons why it’s a good idea — increased outreach if both of you look out for each other, opportunity to bring more value to clients by offering complementary services, shared mindset and support for you and your business.

As you’re sharing your excitement over this realization, the other person gets interested in the idea, too, and the two of you start exploring how you might become referral partners. When the meeting wraps up, you have the rough outline of a plan and another meeting on the calendar to continue talking.

In your mind’s eye, how did this meeting go? Were you successful in getting new a referral partner? What’s that you say — you were too scared to ask?

Common Fears You May Have

The thought of asking for a referral may leave you immobilized. (You mean just walk up to somebody and ask him or her to send me business? Just like that? Are you crazy?)

Here are some fears that may pop up:

  • I’m just starting out and don’t feel like I can rightfully ask for referrals.
  • I don’t have referrals to reciprocate.
  • I’m too embarrassed to ask.
  • I don’t want to impose.
  • I don’t want to owe anybody anything.
  • I’ll come off as sleazy or insincere.
  • I don’t see myself as the type of person who does this kind of thing.
  • I don’t know how to approach someone and start the conversation.
  • I feel like asking for referrals should be easy, yet it’s not, so there must be something wrong with me.
  • I’m too scared, just ’cause.

How to Get Over Your Fears

1. Separate the fiction from the fact.
Fiction: I’m no good at approaching people.
Fact: I approached Bob at that networking event last week about being referral partners and he reacted favorably.

2. Practice makes it easy.
Pick someone who seems nice and non-threatening to practice with. Bob was nice to you last week, chances are good there’ll be another Bob this week who’ll also be nice.

3. Start small.
Begin with a small ask to build your confidence: “Bob, you’ve been in business awhile and I admire your style; mind if I ask how you got to know your referral partners?”

4. Set a target.
A daily/weekly/monthly goal of asking X number of people about being referral partners can work wonders. And once you reach that target, you’re done for a while!

5. Visualize success.
Picture yourself as the type of person who asks like-minded colleagues to be referral partners, and they agree. See and feel the impact this has on your business — and theirs, too.

6. Re-imagine your ask.
Imagine how you’d respond if someone asked you for help. If they were sincere and professional, you’d help them, right? Now imagine they feel the same way about you.

The New Fearless You

Developing referral partners is an effective way to ensure a steady stream of clients. Use these tips to calm your fears and connect with others and you’ll have a network of like-minded business associates in no time.

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