Giving or Getting a Referral

I grew up listening to sage words of advice; like the best way to grow a business is by word of mouth. Never once did I hear about the correct way to give a referral of business. Years later as an entrepreneur I have learned the truth of that saying and more importantly how to give a business referral and yes, even what to do with one once you get it.

I have also learned that not all referrals are actually referrals. It isn’t beneficial for example, for a client to recommend us to their friend in order to secure a clown for their child’s birthday party. It would be much simpler for our client to ask us who we would recommend and then pass that referral on to their friend.

A good referral should be one that matches your skill set or the person’s to whom you are giving the referral. As an example, if you know someone who is a great real estate agent specializing in commercial property you probably don’t want to refer them someone who is interested in buying their first house. Refer them to a real estate agent who specializes in first time home buyers instead. Using my industry as another example, even though I am a corporate event planner it doesn’t mean that I specialize in non-profit fundraisers. There are event planners out there that make their entire living from those kinds of events.

When you give a referral give the person you are referring as much information as possible. We all know to give the standard name, address, email, phone and address but stop and think about what other information you can provide. How long have you known them? How much do you know about what they are looking for? What kind of person are they? What is the best way to communicate or work with them from your experience?

Once you have gotten the referral it is just as important how you follow up with it. Make sure when you contact the referral that you tell them who referred you and offer up why. Document the progress of the referral and send the referee updates on the referral. If the referral doesn’t pan out thank both the referral and the referee for the opportunity. If the referral does pan out and become a solid piece of business make sure to send a personal, handwritten note of thanks to the referee. A small gift relevant to the amount of business would also be a nice touch.

Referrals are the best form of advertising so it is important to not lose out on this vital piece of your business because you mishandle the situation when it appears.

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