Ask a group of business owners how they get their business and you’ll hear a common answer: referrals.
Referrals are a potent business development tool with none of the expenses associated with a traditional marketing campaign. There’s nothing quite as persuasive as when a trusted business colleague says, “I know someone that can assist you with that,” and then puts the two of you together. It makes sense, too. People always prefer to do business with someone that has been referred to them by a trusted business colleague rather than an unknown company found online or through some other marketing outreach effort.
Giving referrals is a valuable skill that should be taught and cultivated. It’s worth noting that although you might give referrals in a very selfless manner and expect nothing in return, it’s true that the more referrals you give, the more you will receive. (Quid pro quo!)
Here are some best practices for how to give referrals:
Make your referrals valuable for both parties
The best referrals benefit both parties. The situation may be that one of your contacts is looking for a specific resource which you know very well, or perhaps it is a case of two contacts working with a similar market and can help each other with introductions. In both situations it’s a probable win-win for the people you put together as well as a win for you as the source of the referral.
Connect the dots for everyone involved
We live in a chaotic world in which everyone and everything is moving fast. There’s rarely time to schedule in-person meetings or calls to make referrals. Cyber-referrals are often used for the initial connection. “E-troductions” can be highly effective, especially if you are clear about why you are putting them in touch. Here’s a sample:
Joe, meet Sue, Sue meet Joe. Joe, I’ve known you for awhile and I am so very impressed by the type of ____work that you do. I know that in time Sue might be looking for a ____and I thought that it would be terrific to get the ball rolling. I hope that you reach out to one another to explore the opportunity.
Set expectations about what is at stake
A good referral is very clear and does not lead either party to have extraneous thoughts. Some referrals are for immediate work; other referrals are simply to plant seeds for potential work in the future. As long as both parties understand the parameters of the referral, everyone should be satisfied.
Be secure about the quality of work provided by each party you are referring
There’s nothing quite so terrible as making a referral that turns out to be a disappointment. With reasonable due diligence you can be confident that the referral will be a positive experience. There are no guarantees, of course, but the more you know about both companies, the more successful the referral will likely be.
Remember this: giving referrals is a great way to receive them, but be patient! People are busy, and while they may want to be helpful they may not find the time to reciprocate and return the gesture. Continue to remind them and if there is nothing forthcoming it makes good business sense to find other resources to whom you can make referrals in the hopes that they might exercise greater reciprocity.
For further discussion or comments, please contact Gail L. Trugman Nikol, President Unique Business Solutions, firstname.lastname@example.org or call (516) 935-5641.