That Referral Guy

TRUTH or DELUSION? Once you’ve been referred to someone new, a great way to strengthen your relationship with your new customer is to refer him to someone else.

DELUSION (with a twist). When you accept a referral to a new customer, your number one objective is to make your referral source look good. Your referral source is lending you his credibility and trusting you to do right by the customer, with the expectation that your actions will reflect well on him and enhance his relationship with the contact. So if you take it upon yourself to immediately begin referring your new customer to other people or businesses, it’s not your relationship you’re putting at risk – after all, that relationship is not even off the ground yet – but your referral giver’s relationship with the client. You’re taking control of that relationship out of the hands of your source without his participation or permission.

Blindsiding your referral partner in order to jump-start your own relationship with the customer is not a good way to strengthen your existing relationship. This is especially true in the first days and weeks after you’ve been referred – when referral remorse is most likely to occur. Your actions, no matter how honorable and open, are suspect in these sensitive times, and you don’t need to add to the source’s worries.

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Another thing you absolutely do not want to do is hand off a referral. Suppose your referral source – Jack – asks you to get in touch with Fred and offer your coaching services to his staff. You agree, but then your schedule tightens up and you decide, without notifying anybody, to pass along the opportunity to an up-and-coming young coach you’ve been mentoring, George. George shows up unexpectedly and does a less-than-perfect job. Fred is incensed. Jack is hacked off at you. Your protégé will not be able to do business with either of them anytime soon, if ever at all. Everybody loses.

However, in different circumstances, this delusion can be a truth. Let’s say you’ve followed up on the referral and, after discussing it with the prospect, decided that you are not the right person or business to fulfill the immediate needs of the prospect. Acting with integrity, you may collaborate with your source to refer someone more suitable to the client: “Jack, I know you referred me to your friend Fred, and I thank you, but our conversations have convinced me that Sally could do the job for him better than I could. Maybe the two of us should refer Sally to him. What do you think?”

Time is another factor in turning this delusion into a truth. After some time has passed and your relationship with the customer has endured and grown stronger after several transactions, you may certainly enhance that relationship by referring the customer to different people for needs that neither you nor your original referral source can supply. By this time, you’ve taken fill responsibility for your part of the customer’s needs; you haven’t replaced your source’s relationship with the client, but enhanced it. You’ve done what you’re obliged to do, and now you enhance your relationship with the customer by making referrals of your own. You can refer other providers to the customer, or you can even refer the customer to other prospects whenever suitable, thus creating a new referral partner.

A third exception involves related professions collaborating on a single referral. If you’re a real estate agent and Jack refers you to Fred, who wants to buy an office, then it’s all right if you refer Fred to a mortgage agent you work with. That’s no surprise to anybody, and your referral source would expect you to do it.

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