I had a conversation with a business contact this week about making referrals, specifically, about using our relationship power to recommend and endorse other people and companies, who may be of value to those within our own sphere of influence.
My discussion partner emphatically declared that he did not feel that making referrals on a regular basis was something he was able or willing to do. His reasoning was that his professional services company did not have enough clients to be able to do this consistently.
Let’s examine this line of thinking:
Someone running his or her own business will by default, have interacted with a variety of other business leaders and decision makers: customers, vendors, suppliers, landlords/ realtors, insurance companies, bankers, and so on. In the context of the variety of such interactions, one will have found varying levels of efficiency and effectiveness with those third parties. Some may have been mediocre, others poor, while others still may have been excellent.
When we find an outstanding performer, do we not want our friends and associates and customers to enjoy that same level of excellence? Do we not want to endorse that excellent performer so that we may continue to enjoy our own interactions with such performer down the road? Do we not want to reward our service provider for the great experience they provided to us?
Now for the hard part….making the referral. Let’s examine that, using a simple example:
A few months ago, I dined at a newly opened restaurant in the city. The décor was so-so, but the food and service was exquisite, from beginning to end. Now, I’m at a neighborhood cookout, talking with my neighbors. How difficult is it to tell them how great the food is at this new place? How difficult is it to heartily endorse this new place?
Let’s look at a tougher example: A college friend calls to tell me his company is relocating to Cincinnati. Do I know a residential realtor, a commercial realtor, a property manager, a banker, an insurance person, a school administrator, and so on, whom I can recommend to assist my friend and enable him, while rewarding those excellent service providers with whom I’ve had good interactions? Is my referral to my friend an act of kindness to assist the friend while rewarding the excellence of my referral partners?
Conversely, think of a time someone may have recommended a service provider to you. The windows at my house are crumbling, and two different friends have given me recommendations for window companies with whom they have had great experiences. Am I offended or otherwise put off by their referrals? Of course not. Am I likely to try these referrals first? You bet.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Let’s go one step further. Now I’m meeting with one of those window companies and we’re talking about the referral source. The window guy is pleased to have had the referral, now he wants to prove how right the referral was, so he gives his best proposal in order to to live up to the referral. I get his best service, and he makes a happy customer of me. Now I make a referral to a friend, and the window guy gets even more business. Do we think he’s going to be grateful to the original referrer, and do we think that referrer will be top of mind when the window guy makes his rounds, and runs into someone seeking the kind of services that the referrer offers? I know that I’m going to be thankful to my friend who referred the window guy, so I ‘owe him one.’ So does the window guy.
So who wins in this scenario?
I win, the window guy wins, the friend to whom I make a referral wins, and the original referrer stays top of mind with the window guy. Now take this situation and apply it to your banker, your IT provider, your attorney, and so on. It’s a win-win-win cycle that increases with intensity with each referral, and the referrals pile up with increasing frequency and repetition.
I provide professional services for a living. I experience great service in a variety of disciplines, from legal advice to banking, accounting, IT, healthcare, or risk management. One of the best services I provide to customers and clients, free of charge, is to endorse professionals in other fields who can assist my clients. My clients certainly appreciate my endorsements, to reduce risk in their process of selecting providers. My ‘partners’ to whom I refer work are greatly appreciative of my endorsement, and I remain top of mind when those in their circle of influence need the kinds of service I provide.
I cannot afford to NOT make referrals.
I really can’t! Lest I find myself on a metaphorical island, hoping customers stumble upon me while navigating the sea of competitors in a vacuum devoid of context, and decide that somehow, in a cold-call typesetting, I emerge from the pack as the best.
The conversation I referenced at the beginning of this post illustrates the thinking of a business person who is living in a self-fulfilling prophesy of not having enough business, refusing to extend for others. In staying inwardly focused, he or she makes a very difficult situation become and remain exactly as it claims it to be.
That is a lonely island indeed. But it does not have to be that way. The boat leaving for the land of referrals is departing. That’s one cruise I want to be on.
By the way, I know the name of a great Captain you might be interested in……