Finding Good Referral Sources Is Like Kissing Frogs!

I was speaking with Sarah Owen, the master franchisee of The Referral Institute in the UK, and she told me that she often comes across people who are good at giving to others but don’t always get an equitable return from their relationships. Many people want to know how to discern whether a potential referral source is a good match, and what they can do to increase the likelihood that their time and efforts are being invested in relationships that will harvest a positive return.

Sarah shared a great metaphor that she uses in relation to referral sources that don’t pan out by saying, “When we are looking for a good relationship in life, we sometimes need to kiss some frogs to find our prince. People are searching for a way to avoid those slimy, slippery, drawn-out kisses, which can be prolonged over months–sometimes years–only to discover that the frog never turns into a handsome prince.” So how do people avoid those empty, disappointing referral relationships that turn out to be slimy frogs instead of princes? I think some of the questions below that Sarah and I discussed can definitely help qualify a potential referral source/alliance relationship sooner rather than later.

  • What are your goals?
  • What are your achievements?
  • What are your interests?
  • What do your networks look like?
  • What are your key skills?
  • Do you have time to invest in another relationship?
  • From what you know so far, do you like what I do?

By asking at the outset whether the individual has the resources, motivation and time to invest, and by then providing him or her permission to opt out, the only question left is whether the match is sufficient enough to ensure the relationship can be reciprocal in time. As our conversation came to a close, Sarah said that her clients are finding better results using these simple steps. Then, she smiled and happily reported that they are also kissing fewer frogs!

I love this metaphor. Thanks for sharing it with me, Sarah.

2 thoughts on “Finding Good Referral Sources Is Like Kissing Frogs!

  1. Ivan- This is a very appropriate post as we come into a crazy time of the year- I think most salespeople, especially small business owners, run such a delicate balance between running their administrative side of business, prospecting, working with clients, being involved in community or trade groups, and having a balanced and healthy personal life to boot, that we often overlook the INVESTMENT we are making with these referral partners. The same way that I am sometimes forced to turn away someone who may EVENTUALLY purchase a house (if they’re contacting me to look at rental properties, for instance, or if they’re not qualified to buy), I should be more scrutinous in how I approach referral partners. Do they have goals/ambitions aligned with my own (relevant to your article “You’re the Average of the Five People You Hang Out with Most”)? Do they hang out with the right mix of potential prospects? Do THEY have time to make an effort? Do they LIKE ME?

    Here’s a twist I would add, however, and it has to do with how we groom our clientelle that may not fit our ideal prospect profile when we first meet them: Do we throw away a lead that may buy from us in a year? Or do we try to stay in contact with them, but with minimized effort?

    Why not put these potentially SLIMY partners into on e-newsletter list, or perhaps send them updates from your blog? So long as you don’t continue to sap your valuable time, these potential referrers shouldn’t be wasted! You never know, someone who is a terrible referral partner today could be a good one tomorrow.


  2. Hi Ivan,
    It is certainly a challenge in business to find the right referral partners and I also like the metaphor of kissing the frog. When it comes to developing relationships it’s taken me a long time to realise that people are motivated by different things and sometimes when trying to drag out that prince (or princess for us chaps) I’ve being using the wrong type of bait.

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