What’s Important When You Refer People?

I just finished a survey of more than 12,000 businesspeople from all around the world on the subject of networking. One of the questions we asked the respondents was Which of the following is most important to you when referring business to others?” The choices were:

  1. Knowing a person’s character.
  2. Knowing a person’s level of competency.
  3. Using the person’s product or service myself.
  4. Knowing a person’s success.

Not surprisingly, “knowing a person’s character” ranked No. 1 in the survey. Interestingly, “using the product or service myself” ranked third out of the four choices! This is important to understand when building your own personal network of people referring you because it shows that people are definitely looking at more than just the quality of your products and services when they think about referring you to other people.

Often, we think that the best source of referrals must be our clients, customers or patients.  Although they definitely are a good source, they are not our only source.  In fact, based on this survey, personally using and experiencing another person’s product or services before referring business to that person was not as important to the respondents as other factors.

What this means to you is–you need to build your credibility with people who know you (whether they’ve used your business or not).  If people trust your character and competency, they are likely to refer you regardless of whether they’ve actually used your products or services.

This is an important paradigm shift for many people.  It means that many of your referrals may actually come from people other than your clients–if you learn how to network effectively.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

8 thoughts on “What’s Important When You Refer People?

  1. I’m in complete agreement with you, build your character by being authentic and the business will naturally begin to flourish. It’s all about building the relationship!

    Thank you for sharing your survey, I’ll pass it on.


  2. Ivan,

    This is something that I have believed all along. So many people think that a referral comes when someone knows how successful you are, or because they have used your product or service before.But it really comes down to people want to feel safe in referring someone. They need to feel secure in the fact that the person they refer will have a positive experience.

    How you CONDUCT yourself in business and in life is far more important.

  3. Great Post,
    I believe today with social networking and the way the internet has made us become transparent; It is apparent that others are already “watching” us. So they choose “who” they want to do business out of many other distributors or business ownwers, people they’d want to follow if you will.

    Thank you for sharing!
    Shannon Tecson

  4. I am also not surprised that character came in first. Integrity has always been important. However, in an era that has included Enron, Tyco… (the list goes on and on unfortunately) it has come into increased demand as an essential aspect of business relationships at all levels.

    I will say that the margin of victory was a bit surprising. But as a businessman who strives to be honorable in all of my dealings this is very encouraging news!

    Joe Denner

  5. Thanks Ivan for the statistics.

    That was a great effort to conduct a referral survey with a wide sampling size.

    The survey reminded me of what I have learnt and am constant sharing that

    “People like to do business with people whom
    they KNOW,
    they LIKE, and
    they TRUST”

    I will surely want to know the person’s character, competency, product/service and success, like them and trust them enough before putting my reputation on the line to refer the person to someone else.

    Ang Ah Sin
    Raffles Chapter
    BNI Singapore

  6. It is true, despite the business side of it, what really sells us on someone or something is the person themselves. Even above their competency is character. It is interesting to see that we value a person as a person more than their pure skill.

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