Five lessons on referrals inspired by Jerry Seinfeld

Nearly 16 years after the series finale and I continue to draw inspiration from the sitcom Seinfeld. Perhaps it was the nostalgic teaser during the Superbowl that rekindled my interest in the show – but in a way it never left. I mean, who can resist laughing at Jerry and George bickering over nothingness at a New York coffee shop? But the real genius of the show is its ability to make light of the awkwardness and absurdity of (somewhat) real life situations. Take a look at this clip Jerry making fun of people recommending their doctors to others. As humorous as it is, there are some lessons to be learned here.

There are a lot of bests

There are other people in your industry that excel at making their customers happy – and this is a good thing! The positives created by your peers help validate your services and make others more receptive of referrals.

Do not feel like you are at war with all of your competitors, instead embrace their strengths. At times, recommend them prospects if they are a better fit. The best professionals celebrate that good is being done in their industry. Remember that your primary focus should be on providing outstanding service as it sets the foundation for an effective referral strategy.

People don’t recommend services for ten bucks

Would you recommend a doctor to someone for a monetary incentive? What about insurance? Real estate? Neither would I. Yet so often you see incentive based programs that center around rewards for referring services to others. Its almost like they are offering their customers a profit share for new business.

Referrals for services are built on trust – that is why they work. When money is introduced in the equation the trust factor is severely diluted. When people are actively telling their friends their doctor “is the best” it isn’t for a gift card – so your referral strategy shouldn’t inspire people to refer for the wrong reasons.

People love to stay consistent

Their doctor really is the best – at least in their mind. People love to stay consistent with decisions they have already made. According to Dr. Cialdini’s six principles of influence consistency is a core motivator in human behavior. In other words, if I made the decision that my doctor is the best then you betcha I’m going to stick by it.

Find ways to get your customers to say that you are great. One effective method is to actively ask for testimonials that can be shared publicly. Ask for recommendations online with social media. When people speak their mind for others to see they are much more likely to stick by you and recall how great you are in conversation.

People feel compelled to spread the unique

Conversations are so much more interesting when something new is brought to the table. Remember, there are a lot of bests out there. So what makes you stick out in conversation? If you are only doing the expected (albeit a darn good job at it) then your customers won’t have a lot to say about you. This is important in turning smiles into referrals.

Give your customers conversation fodder. Do the unexpected so that they can bring it up in conversation and cite specifics on what makes you superior. Handwritten notes go a long way to achieve this. Let them know they are appreciated as loyal customers. My doctor is the best, and look at this card he sent me just because he cares!

Make sure you tell him you know me

Jerry does a great job at pointing out how ridiculous it may seem to let a doctor know they are coming from a referral. But if the doctor is actively setting the referral mindset with his clients it isn’t that absurd at all. True, most professionals will not provide preferential treatment to referred clients – as they shouldn’t. The point is the recognition that comes with bringing the doctor a referral.

People feel an accomplishment in knowing they inspired a positive relationship. The recognition is valuable from both sides – and that is why thanking your referral sources is so important.


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