That Referral Guy

TRUTH or DELUSION? When you give referrals to others, you can expect them to give you referrals in return.

DELUSION. Referrals are not an entitlement. If you go into a referral relationship expecting that simply giving a referral is enough to get you one in return, you’re confusing a relationship with a transaction. In the theory of social capital, the law of reciprocity states that whenever you give, you will get back in abundance. But this is not a simple quid pro quo; it’s giving benefits, including referrals, to others in order to create and strengthen networking relationships that will, in the long run, bring referrals to you. These referrals may come from anywhere – from someone who knows someone who knows your contact – at some other time, perhaps, from the person himself.

Referrals are not an entitlement. If you go into a referral relationship expecting that simply giving a referral is enough to get you one in return, you’re confusing a relationship with a transaction.

          It isn’t necessarily that the person whom you referred doesn’t want to give you referrals; that person simply may not know anybody who needs what you provide. You can’t expect a referral to be manufactured in the absence of somebody’s real need. Nor should you expect anybody to refer you if your products or services don’t meet their standards. It’s your responsibility to meet the necessary standards and to sell others on the fact that you meet those standards. Simply giving a referral is proof of nothing except your good intentions, or perhaps a mercenary expectation that you’re entitled to referrals in return.


When it comes to referrals, the law of reciprocity works well only if it is not treated as a transactional process. In fact, if the implication to someone is “you own me one,” your actions will be counterproductive. People who feel that you’re giving them referral only to make them beholden to you will avoid you, and you will not be able to form a long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.

Choose you relationships wisely. Form relationships with people who are willing to practice the philosophy of giving unconditionally. And remember that, although there is no scorecard, when everybody plays by the same rules, everybody wins.

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