Referrals are wonderful, in fact they are essential to business but how often do we share a referral that goes no where? Recently I attended a networking meeting where sharing good referrals was the topic. This discussion gave me a lot of food for thought and it encouraged me to think about creating a truly effective referral system that would generate business and build strong referral partnerships.
Developing a good reliable referral partnership means building trust and confidence. You need to know the person you are referring. One of the best ways to get to know them is to become familiar with their services through personal experience. When you have a personal story to tell your referral takes on a whole new meaning, one that conveys confidence and trust. Let’s face it, if someone did work for you that you were unhappy with would you refer them to a friend or client?
When you don’t have a personal story to tell take the time to get to know the person you are referring. Become familiar with what it is they do, what sets them apart from their competition and why you should refer them. Ask them “What do you want me to tell people about you?” and “What would be a good referral for you?” Spend a little time getting to know them and learn some of their client’s stories, a conversation over coffee can help you determine if this is someone you would be comfortable referring.
On the flip side you need to make yourself memorable to people you partner with. Let them know what you would like them to say about you and the services you offer, what sets you apart from someone else in the same industry and why you are passionate about what you do. Make sure your networking partners have a good understanding of what you do and how you can help the people they know and care about. Be bold, referrals come when you ask “Who do you know?”
When it comes to the actual referral process many have found that it is much more effective to have your referral partner initiate the call otherwise the connection may never happen. Have you ever given someone a phone number or business card for a referral partner only to find out later that they never actually called them? When you set an expectation with your referral partners to make the initial contact the results improve dramatically. Ask the person in need of the referral if it would be okay to have your referral partner reach out to them in the next day or two then make it happen. Follow up with both parties to assure that the connection was made.
What do you do when a referral goes bad? What if your referral partner never follows up or you get terrible feedback from the person you gave the referral to? Apologies go a long way to restoring relationships. Follow up with both parties to find out what went wrong and if the relationship can be restored or if you need to remove someone from your referral network.
The goal of every referral is for you to get a thank you from both parties in the referral process. If you are the person receiving the referral or being referred show your appreciation, a simple handwritten thank you can go a long way to your next referral.