Think Getting a Business Referral Is Money in the Bag? Think Again...

Getting a New Referral Is a Done Deal . . . True or False?

When one of your business contacts passes you a new referral, does that mean the prospect is ready to hear a presentation on your product or service?  Repeat after me . . . NO.  Assume nothing.

When an associate passes you a referral, say thanks, then start digging for more information.  Exactly what does the prospect do?  What products or services does he want from you?  Will your offerings truly fulfill his needs?  What is his behavioral style?  What are his business goals?  How large is his company?

Don’t skip steps in your sales process.  Before you approach the prospect, you need to decide on a strategy based on whatever you can find out about him–the same as you would when preparing for any sale.  Just because the prospect was referred to you doesn’t mean the sale is a done deal.  All you’ve really received is an opportunity to approach the prospect with a favorable introduction.  Whether the prospect becomes a client or not depends on how well you convince him that what you offer, at the price and under the conditions that you offer it, will fulfill his needs.

There’s quite a difference between a basic referral and one that’s well developed, and there are many different levels in between.  Listed here from least to most valuable, you should consider which level this referral represents:

  • Name and contact information only–Unfortunately, this is what many of your potential sources probably think the first time you say the word referral to them.  It does represent a certain level of trust in you, but the networking value of this kind of referral is low.  It’s better than nothing–but not much.
  • Authorization to use name–If he says, “Tell ’em Joe sent you,” you can be fairly sure you’ve established a good level of credibility with him.  This gives you some leverage, but the work of developing the prospect still falls on you.
  • Testimonial or letter of introduction–If your source trusts you enough to say nice things about you, try getting him to go a bit further and write you a letter of introduction or recommendation, including background information on you and some words about your product or service.
  • Introduction call–A personal phone call on your behalf, preparing the prospect to hear from you, takes significant time and effort in preparation.
  • Letter of introduction and phone call promotion–A letter that’s followed up by a phone call advocating your business represents a high level of commitment by your referral source and has a great deal of influence on the prospect.
  • Meeting–By arranging and working out the details for a meeting between you and the prospect, your source moves beyond the role of promoter to that of facilitator, or even business agent.  This demonstrates to your prospect a deep level of trust in you.
  • Face-to-face introduction and promotion–Combining an in-person introduction with promotion demonstrates that your source is engaged in selling your product or service rather than just facilitating your sales effort.
  • Closed deal–Your referral source describes the features and benefits of your product or service, then closes the sale before you even contact the prospect.  All you have to do is deliver the goods and collect the money.  This is obviously the best kind of referral you can get.  To get to this level of referral, you’ll have to work with your sources and tell them what you’d like from them.  This takes time and education.

The better your source knows you and is confident of your character and your business, the more often you’ll get the higher-level referrals.  But keep in mind that you need to be making high-level referrals for your sources too.  It really is true . . . what goes around comes around.

What can you do this week in an effort to generate more high level referrals for your referral sources? For those of you who share your ideas in the comment forum below, I’ll send a free copy of my book Masters of Sales to everyone who posts their thoughts by the end of the week (Sunday, 5/5/13).  Once you leave your comment, send your name and your mailing address to erin@bni.com in order to receive your book (Erin is my Communications Supervisor and she will only use your contact information in order to ensure you receive your book–your information will not be shared).  Thanks!

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25 thoughts on “Getting a New Referral Is a Done Deal . . . True or False?

  1. Great article, Dr. Misner. I particularly like the point about considering whether or not your offerings will truly fulfill the needs of the prospect. Ultimately, my goal with any prospect is to help him/her the best way that I can. If my services aren’t exactly what the prospect needs, I never hesitate to introduce the prospect to a trusted professional that can fulfill the needs of the prospect.

    Michael Raanan, MBA, EA
    President
    Landmark Tax Group

  2. I find it helpful to personally introduce a collegue and be a silent observor for the initial introduction. It gives me a great opportunity to see them in action and helps me to make better referrals in the future.

  3. In order to focus on quality referrals prior to a one to one I connect with the person on linked in. I then review my clients to see how they can help them and think of at least 5 names of possible referrals through my present connections. I also prior to the one to one review their connections. I then pick 5 key people I would like to be referred to. I then note down why I believe I can help them and include my unique selling point. I then ask for the referrals and back this up with a story that can be relayed easily. This helps my contact to gain me quality focused referrals from our one to one and indeed vica versa if they do this for me it too will make it easier for me to refer them.
    Hope this helps. Thanks for sharing everyone – I learn something every time I log on.
    Have a great week everyone!
    Gina @Helix Healthcare

  4. My goal for this week is to arrange at least one face-to-face introduction and promotion meeting. I’m a BNI member for over 3 years, and I’ve found that face-to-face introduction is the most effective way to give my fellow chapter members high quality referrals.
    Thx Ivan, I’m really enjoying Your blog!

  5. At this weeks BNI meeting I will use my BNI Trade Index worksheet to list the 5 best Referrals from the 60 sec informercial to formulate and send an introductory letter attached to an email letter to 5 of my Business associates introducing the respective members. I will then follow up with a phone call to get approval to connect them with my BNI member via a formal referral for a specific business opportunity.
    To gauge the effectiveness of this approach I will establish a tracking and follow up system based on the number of referrals obtained and the value of closed business generated.
    Paul Diener
    PRD Print – Sydney Australia

  6. Frequent 1-2-1s, but more importantly, be prepared. Research the other person’s business, marketing campaign, see if you can anticipate possible connections. Then ask if some of the contacts you bring are good for him.

  7. I think it is important to know when referral sources customer base intersects with mine. When servicing a client, I know their occupation and ask about or notice many of their needs. I can then be prepared to refer the perfect match to meet those needs.

  8. Great article, Ivan. I first listen to the person with a open mind and ears. I have found that people will tell you every that they want and need. With this information I can help them and connect my BNI chapter members. Then once I’ve listened share how the members services can be of benefit the person. I then send an e-mail intro as a follow up. My goal with everyone is to help them the best way that I can. I also re-edify the professional as a person I know and trusted. Plus I am always looking to help everyone I can. I also make follow up calls if them member or referral has not heard from the other.

  9. Some really useful pointers here, Ivan. I usually find it hard to bring referrals to the weekly meeting, but I was listening to conversation round the table at a party on Saturday when I heard a man saying he needed to get his concrete garage floor sealed. Within a minute or so I had told him about our flooring specialist, and have emailed the man’s name, phone number and postcode.

  10. I believe in the power of good stories when it comes to generating high level referrals for our referral sources. Being able to relate a good story about how your trusted referral source successfully solved a problem with a product/service they provide is invaluable. This is particularly effective when your contact is having a similar issue and needs that ‘pain’ taken away.
    To allow us to do this more often, we need to regularly hear varioous good stories from our referral sources so we can repeat them when the opportunity arises.

  11. I think it’s fair to say that sometimes we all fall foul of complacency when receiving a referral from a fellow chapter member. You’re right to point out that at no point should we skip any step of our sales process. By doing so, you are potentially throwing away an immeasurable amount of business from that referral and any/all subsequent referrals from that person.

  12. I think the best way to generate referrals for my referral partners is to introduce them to a business person that can benefit them by being a referral partner for them. Making that introduction and helping them get to know each other is a fantastic way to help them both 🙂

  13. Thank you for the great information about the level or quality of a referral, Ivan. My best referrals given have been when I personally endorsed the person I am recommending. One way to be that confident is that I really spend time getting to know my BNI members and pay special attention to their character. I also will try their services personally if possible, so I have first hand experience to share. I think the best referral comes from your clients.

    In my neighborhood, I am known as the lady with great resources. I seek out new people to my neighborhood and offer myself as a resource for various goods and services that my BNI members provide that they might need or find useful.

    I think it is always a good practice to follow up with the people I have referred business to, to see how pleased they are with the referral I gave them. This gives me opportunities to give testimonials to my members.

  14. Great info Ivan . We all know how importance is the quality of the referral , in order to have positive result , but with this approaching you made things clear and simple.
    I believe that 1:2:1 between members is very crucial in order to have good successful referrals .
    I will share this information tomorrow with all my chapter members ,
    Thanks a lot!

  15. I put a good amount of time into 1-2-1’s to get to know the person and the business. Then I am able to give the type of referral they desire.

  16. It’s always a benefit to read all the ways you’ve created success Dr. Misner! What works best for me is asking questions and then “listening”.. Sometimes, we meet folks that NEED to grow their business and they don’t know what their next step should be. You might even have a great potential BNI member in front of you; ask the questions and love the answers! The referrals will follow . . . .

  17. One-to-ones are critical, but they’re also useless unless you work hard to figure out the questions that the recipient of your referral a) needs you to ask them to understand what they offer and what they’re looking for and b) needs you to ask the referral so that you can pre-qualify them as best as possible.

    After that, I always make sure that the referral is ok with me having the recipient call them; if they’re no ok with that then they’re probably not ready to buy. When I give the referral to my recipient I make sure they know that they can use my name so that the referral knows who’s calling and why.

  18. I liked your comments regarding referrals. I think quite often in BNI we forget a referral is an “opportunity” to make contact with a person. I like when I hear “tell them…….sent you”, but it takes time to build that level of trust. The more information and personal touch we give to a referral, the more productive the referral is likely to be.

  19. Great article! I’ve been toying with the idea of inviting two people to lunch that I know, once they meet, will want to do business with each other. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

  20. Love the letter of recommendation intro! Of course, the “I already closed the deal for you” intro is just a tad better 😉 I’m going to use this article for next week’s Education Minute!

    Thanks as always for the ongoing tips to succeed in BNI!

    Brad

  21. I, as NEC role in BNI, will bring this article to teach in Networking Educational Coordinator slot time in my BNI Warrior Chapter, Thailand.

    Educate, Educate, and Educate our referral sources about all business networking.

  22. This is an awesome blog. I am currently the E.C. for my chapter and after reading this blog I wil be sharing this information with my chapter next week at our meeting. I like to qualify my clients to my BNi members prior to them actually receiving a phone call. This blog gives me some ideas on how I can improve in that area and take it to the next level. Thank you.

  23. Too many times we forget about the opportunity to build the relationship first. It is always about building the “know, like, trust” with the potential client. Yes, we can build a bit quicker with the proper introduction from the referral partner, but it is still up to the person that is getting the referral to treat this like a new relationship.

  24. I’m told some of the best referrals I’ve generated for my colleagues follow them being specific in their 60 sec about the person or organisation they would like to be referred in to. If they’ve told a story that resonates then all the better. Armed with this information I generate an e-mail to the company outlining the member as a good friend of mine who I’m really trying to help, I explain that they have asked to be introduced to the company and I tell the story as to how they have helped others. Finally asking if they are interested in taking a call from the member. If I don’t receive a response at first then I send a follow-up e-mail a few days later. Many of the e-mails I send do not generate a response, however the ones that do come back being happy to take a call from the member have turned out to be really great business opportunities.

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