Art of building referral relationship

Building Referral Relationships: The Art of Patience and Persistence

In the world of business, good referrals are akin to gold. They can open doors, create opportunities, and supercharge your professional network. However, the question that many professionals wonder is, “How long does it take to receive referrals from your network?” The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. Building referral relationships is a process that resembles the development of close personal friendships, and it takes time and effort. Let’s talk about the timeline for nurturing these valuable connections and I’ll share insights on how to expedite the process.

The Friendship Analogy

Strong referral relationships mirror the gradual progression of friendships. It is not about the quantity of contacts as much as it is the quality of the connections you establish. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships shed light on the timeline of friendships. It revealed that it takes roughly 50 hours of interaction to transform an acquaintance into a “casual friend.” To become “real friends,” individuals require a total of 90 hours, and to reach the status of “close friends,” the threshold is approximately 200 hours. According to the study, “friendship status was examined as a function of hours together, shared activities, and everyday talk.”

Building Trust for Referrals

Now, let’s translate this into the realm of business referrals. To receive referrals from your network, you need to cultivate trust and rapport with your referral partners. It’s a process that cannot be rushed. So, if you’re impatiently looking for immediate referrals, you might need to rethink your strategy. In most cases, it takes between 90 and 200 hours of meaningful interaction to foster the trust necessary for regular referrals.

I know that 90 to 200 hours may sound like a lot, however that is almost an exact match with what I’ve seen in BNI. When BNI members hit the 90-hour mark of participation they almost always begin receiving more and more referrals. Based on an independent study published in 2012 for BNI, when those same individuals cross the 200-hour mark, they generate an average of over five times the number of referrals they did in their first year! Yes, you read that right: more than 500% more referrals when they have built strong relationships with their referral partners.

Steps to Accelerate Referral Success

Building a referral-based business is a deliberate process that involves nurturing meaningful relationships. To expedite this journey and start receiving referrals sooner, ask yourself the following four crucial questions:

  1. Am I Building Relationships?
    Are you actively engaging with your referral partners and investing time in getting to know them? Building trust is a two-way street, and your effort will be reciprocated.
  2. Am I Demonstrating Value?
    Regularly make stimulating, educational presentations to your network about the value you provide to your clients. This showcases your expertise and reinforces your credibility.
  3. Am I Giving Back?
    Engage in business transactions within your network, allowing you to give dynamic testimonials and direct business to others. This reciprocity is often rewarded with referrals in return.
  4. Am I Staying Informed?
    Maintain regular meetings with your networking colleagues to learn about, and stay current on, their businesses. This knowledge will enable you to confidently refer your contacts to them, strengthening the bond.

The Depth of Relationships

Building a referral-based business is all about building a powerful, personal network. If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, you will never get the kind of referrals that will make a difference for your business. When you follow these simple tactics and focus on developing strong relationships that are built on trust and mutual support, you are on your way to getting referrals.

 The journey to receiving referrals from your network is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. The best way to speed up the process is to spend time in the process of developing relationships with the people you are networking with. By following the steps outlined, you can accelerate the timeline for receiving referrals. Remember, networking is about farming, not hunting. It’s about nurturing relationships and friendships with other professionals. So, be patient, be persistent, and in due time, your network will become a valuable source of referrals that can transform your business.




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