Last week I went to send an email introduction as a referral recommendation and I was halted by the little voice in my head that said, “NOPE, you referred them business before and they screwed you.” Well, that ‘voice’ was my intuition and it quickly reminded me in that moment that I wasn’t going to make that mistake again. As an entrepreneur, referrals are the lifeblood of our business. After all, people do business with people they know or people they know through someone else (i.e., a referral)
So what’s the big deal? As I teach personal branding and share the rule about surrounding yourself with people that are like-minded and will enhance your personal/professional portfolio, referrals are the same concept. When you make a referral the person you are making the referral to holds your recommendation in high regard. If the relationship goes well then you are a great asset and they will forever be indebted to you for aiding in the growth of their business. BUT boy, oh boy, if the referral goes wrong because there was a lack of follow through, consistency, or basic customer service then you and your business take the hit. Your judgment is questioned and they can even go as far as to scrutinize your other business practices. Why all of this issue for a quick introduction? Because our word and actions are all we have and an integral part of relationship building. Burn the relationship and your business might suffer.
So as usual I have compiled a list of to-do’s for those making a referral and those who are asking to be referred.
If you’re making a referral or asked to make a referral:
- Thoroughly introduce: If you know someone personally but are not aware of their work be sure to mention that in your introduction. How do you do that? Say something like, “please let me introduce you to a great friend. We have not worked together in a professional capacity but I can attest to his/her integrity and honesty throughout our relationship. I am making an introduction so that you can better get acquainted and identify if he/she might be a good fit for you and your business. Please let me know how it goes.”
- Follow up: If you made a referral be sure to follow back up with both parties. This can ensure that if there is an issue you can save your relationship by making additional introductions or offering other resources. Be sure to make notes of those you refer so that you can best align them in the future.
- Be honest as to why you will not refer: In business you learn quickly that honesty is truly the best policy. If someone comes to you asking for a referral or introduction be honest about why you are not comfortable making that recommendation. People can only grow their business if they understand what others think and feel of them. In reality it might be that the person they would like to be referred to is not a good fit for them however they will not know that until you give them that honesty.
If you are seeking a referral:
- Think before you ask: Operating a business can be one of the most thrilling parts of life. HOWEVER, if you opened your business yesterday you might not need a million dollar referral. Think about ‘the ask’ before you jump out there with it. Starting from the top means you have nowhere to go but down. Referrals are extremely important and if you screw it up you have hurt two valuable relationships.
- Have a plan: I had a colleague once ask me did I have a new business strategy. At that time I was at the beginning stages of that plan. I have since created one and it is more than just meet potential client, sign them, begin working. There are many pieces that happen in between. When someone makes a referral you should 1) hold it in high regard that they thought of you/your business and 2) have a system in place that includes thanking the person who referred you, following up with the potential new client, listening to their needs, identifying those needs, meeting those needs or even making other referrals that will help, following up with the person who referred you, and then getting to work. Now of course there might be a few steps in between but the bottom line is to create a plan that works best for you execute it in the fashion that will allot you other referrals down the line.
- Follow up: This is by far the most important task you have in the entire process, yet sometimes the most difficult. Don’t forget to send thank you notes, express gratitude via social networks, send smoke signals or something. The person who is making referrals will remember how grateful you were, even if the deal didn’t happen.
Referrals can sometimes be 70-80% of our business and personal development and should be handled with care. The next time you make a referral remember that it is priceless!
What would you contribute to the list?
Kia Jarmon is a brand strategist and PR coach with boutique public relations firm, The MEPR Agency. She speaks, blogs, mentors, and is soon to be an author. You can find more information at her personal brand site, www.KiaJarmon.com.