Most professional service firms rely on referrals of some sort to support their business. In fact, it’s likely the best source of new business because prospects tend to be less price sensitive because they were sent from a trusted source. It may have been from their attorney, CPA, or financial planner. Most of these referrals don’t need any selling, just service.
In a recent BuildMyReputation.net poll, responders say they would rather not give a referral at all than give a referral that they have even a moderate level of confidence in. This is in part due to the thought that a quality referral is a direct reflection of the referrer’s reputation. A referral given that is handled poorly could affect the referrers relationship with the client. What this means is, your reputation is just as important with referral sources as it is with direct clients.
Unfortunately, referrals tend to be mishandled more often than not because expectations weren’t clear between referring parties to begin with.
Here is how to properly set expectations with regular referral partners and ensure a long, productive, and symbiotic relationship. Your partners will appreciate your formalized upfront approach, and you both will benefit.
Increase your volume of referrals by staying in control of the process. Instead of leaving it up to the client to make the first move, ask, “Would you like me to have person XYZ get in touch with you.?”
Referrals should be called right away. Responding the same day, increases the chances of an engagement because the topic is still top of mind.
Sending referrals repeatedly without reciprocation or consideration is not fun and not a sustaining model. If you send referrals, make sure its clear with your referral partners that you expect to receive some in exchange. Stop short of demanding a volume. The best referrals are not forced and happen organically.
Ask What Makes a Good Referral
Have a good understanding of the type of business your referral partner wants. Most competent business professionals have a niche they work best with. If you don’t ask, you waste everyone’s time with a referral that goes nowhere.
You Deserve Follow Up.
Nothing is more frustrating than to give a referral and hear nothing about it for months or ever. Have an understanding with your partners that you expect feedback. Even if nothing materialized. After all, it’s just common courtesy.
Commit to the Terms Yourself
Don’t ask others to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself. Being a pro’s pro means you set the level of professionalism yourself. Others will follow your lead.
Formalizing a referral relationship doesn’t have to be more than handshake deal. However, treat your referral sources like you do your own clients. Put effort into maintaining a relationship with them by perhaps inviting them to lunch or some other activity periodically.