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Referral Etiquette

Do you rely on referrals as part of your business development strategy? A referral-based business is often considered the “gold-standard” of success that many strive to reach. While not a slam-dunk, warm referrals are essentially ‘low-hanging fruit” - so why not learn how to be a good recipient?

I felt compelled to write this article on the heels of referrals I recently made to various people, only to have the referrals fade away into cricket town - as in no feedback whatsoever. I thought it might be useful to offer a few tips on referral etiquette.

On the giving side:

  • Ask better questions so you know what a qualified referral looks like; people appreciate that you’ve taken the time to learn what type of prospects can utilize their services.

  • Depending on the parties involved, determine whether the best intro is face-to-face, via email (my usual go-to) or over the phone or video chat.

  • When you make an introduction, be sure to state why you’re making the intro - share how the connection could be mutually beneficial for the two parties.

  • Become a business connector. Your role as business connector can raise your leadership quotient.

  • Become the go-to authority in your circle of influence and become known for creating positive business relationships for others.

  • Create some good karma. Although you likely won’t receive a direct benefit, refer often and refer well.

On the receiving side:

  • Help people provide you with qualified referrals. This means you need to be able to answer the question “What type of client do you work with?” Or, “Who is your target market?” Answering “I can help everyone” is not useful. Do your homework and narrow down the demographics, problems you can solve, industries you serve. You’ve practiced your elevator speech, now hone your response to these two questions.

  • Acknowledge receipt of the referral. A simple “thanks for the connection” will let the referrer know the message was received.

  • Update your referrer as to the outcome. You might say we’re meeting for coffee or set a meeting for “x” day; just make sure the referrer knows you followed through and made contact.

  • Even if you skip the middle phase of your follow-up, do make sure to let the referrer know how the connection worked out; let them know if it didn’t work out. Doing so lets your referral partner know if they’ve sent you a valid prospect or if they need to fine tune a bit.

  • Most people really do want to help you, so make it easy for them by following the above steps so you can become a good receiver and effectively grow your business with a steady stream of referrals.

So these are a few things that cropped of top-of-mind for me. What has been your experience with referrals? Any suggestions to add? Please comment below.

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