Unstoppable Referrals - Interview With Steve Gordon

7 min read
Vlad Kovalskiy
February 2, 2017
Last updated: October 9, 2019
Unstoppable Referrals - Interview With Steve Gordon
Steve Gordon is the Amazon #1 Bestselling Author of “Unstoppable Referrals: 10x Referrals, Half the Effort”. He is known as the sharpest new mind on referrals for high-trust, high-ticket sales. Steve became CEO of his first professional services firm at age 28, growing its revenue 10-times. He teaches professional service firms, and consultants how to build "by referral only" practices, without ever having to ask for referrals. You can find more articles to help you get referrals at UnstoppableCEO.net


The efficiency of referral marketing has been proven by numerous studies. Up to 74% of buyers consider word-of-mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decision. It’s not so clear though whether referral program is suitable for any company, any type of business. What questions should each entrepreneur ask before initiating referral marketing?

The key consideration is the amount of trust required to complete the purchase. The higher the price, the more trust is required. For low-ticket sales, your best source of referrals is the product itself - build something outstanding and the referrals will happen. But for high-ticket sales, you really want an orchestrated system for creating referrals.

The next question to ask is “Who is your IDEAL Client?” Most businesses don’t really know (as surprising as that is). You need to understand who they are in ways you can see - demographics - and in how they think and make buying decisions.

Then you must ask, “What are the problems they face, and the consequences of those problems that would motivate them to buy?”

Most stop at identifying problems, but we all have problems we’re perfectly happy to live with. It’s only when the consequences of a problem become great enough that we’re motivated to spend money to solve it.

Referrals seem to be natural for b2c companies, but business to business environment imposes its own requirements. Stakes are higher, each referencer risks its own business reputation. Can you recommend strategies which will make referral marketing work for b2b companies?

Actually, referrals are even more powerful (and often easier) in B2B sales. The approach must be more sophisticated. It's not just about a happy client that's willing to share you. You've got to give them a way to easily add value to their network. Then they'll share you far and wide.

Asking for one single referral is not easy, mistakes are inevitable. What are the most common missteps entrepreneurs make when they try to implement a referral program?

The first and biggest is focusing on referral incentives. In high-ticket, high-trust sales incentives tend to reduce referrals. They create a feeling of conflict of interest in clients, that is counterproductive.

The second common mistake is relying on your clients and referral partners--your unpaid, untrained sales force--to prospect for you. It's hard enough for your highly-trained, highly-paid sales people to identify prospects. It's almost impossible for your clients and partners. If you're getting too few referrals or referrals to bad-fit prospects, this is likely the cause.

The third mistake we see is failing too align your interests (getting clients) with your clients' interests (usually to give value to their network), with the prospects' interests (to solve a serious problem they face). The "old" referral approach takes value from your relationship with clients. It's all about you getting business, without much value for the client making the referral...just risk. This is a big topic to cover...we've got a detailed free course that explains exactly how to get everything aligned.

In your book “Unstoppable Referrals: 10x Referrals Half the Effort” you reveal how to get 5-10 referrals without even asking for them. Can you share the secret with our readers?

Rather than ask for referrals in the old way where you might say "Do you know anyone who might need [insert your product or service]." We take a different approach.

Most businesses believe strongly that what they do impacts the lives of their clients. In other words, they're on a mission to improve things for their clients. Successful referral systems, enlist the client or referral partner in the mission the business is on. It makes the referral, ultimately about helping the prospect, rather than delivering new business to you. It's far easier to get a client to refer, when they believe that doing so will benefit the prospect, and the fact that you get new business is secondary.

To accomplish this, we use something we call The Value Conversation™. It's a simple and authentic way to talk with clients and partners about the mission you're on, and enlist them in your cause.

What software, tools or services do you recommend for tracking referrals?

The tools aren't nearly as important as your process. That said, you need some kind of CRM to keep track of your clients and the people they refer. There are a lot of really great (and inexpensive) tools to do this. The key is finding a tool you and your team will actually use. That may sound silly, but it's far more important than any of the specific features of the tool.

Find one with a workflow that fits your existing processes. Our current three favorites are Hubspot (their free CRM is excellent), Highrise, and Contactually.

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