Anyone who has been networking actively for a year or more will run into a dilemma. Depending on our profession, there may be many other business people in our immediate circles which offer the same services that we do. Of course, our goal is to package what we do in a unique and different way but when it comes right down to it, the actual product is the same. Some professions are flooded with sales agents like insurance, financial planning and real estate. Maybe you are one of these folks or in a related job. The dilemma is as you network with multiple people offering the same product and they are all in your regular contact groups, when the opportunity arises who should you refer? Who will you give the business to?
The obvious answer is to refer the “best qualified person” for the job but sometimes it’s not that clear and simple. If someone stands out head-and-shoulders above the rest and they also refer you business, then that makes it easier but what if they are all well skilled and knowledgeable. Should you make the referral to the one which gives you business even if they might not be the best qualified? Pledging loyalty to someone based on the amount of business they give you has to make you question what you are basing your loyalty on. Would you tell someone who refers you business regularly that you feel they need to shape up their act? Not likely.
The strategy of some people is that they sprinkle around the referrals to all their contacts which they feel are worthy. This can work but it dilutes building a solid one-on-one partner for the long term. Depending on the volume of business you transact, you can have two or three strong referral partners in the same profession but you should think through your overall strategy so you don’t get caught diluting your network.
Here are checkpoints which should serve as food for thought.
1) Refer the best candidate for the job based on the quality of work they do through your direct or indirect experience. If you have used them, then you will know what their strengths are and if you haven’t tested their services then you may have heard through testimonial how outstanding they are and what great value they offer.
2) Refer the person who understands networking and the concept of reciprocity. That doesn’t mean you expect an immediate referral back from them; it means they have taken the time to also understand your products and services and have their radar on alert for opportunities for you as well. Referring the best attorney in town all the business which comes your way without him or her even knowing what you do will usually not serve you well in the grand scheme of things.
3) If you get referrals from someone who you would not necessarily refer back to because you feel there is something lacking in their skills then you have two choices. The first choice, sit down with them and have a loving talk and explain what you are feeling and your perception. Based on human nature, not many people will take this very well and you may not get anymore referrals from them but it might help them as business people in the future.
The second choice is to reciprocate the business they direct toward you with other types of benefits. Maybe you won’t refer them but you could give them ballgame tickets, gift cards, dinner/theater passes or a certificate for something they value. Basically, you are saying “thank you” for your efforts and you have done something, other than refer them, to show your appreciation. My experience is you will choose the path which fits your personality and also fits the type of relationship you have with the other person.
Based on these points, something should be clear. If you want to start to generate business and referrals from a particular person then get them a referral first. They will take note and want to reciprocate. On the other hand, if you get a referral from someone, make sure you acknowledge and thank them immediately and then learn about what they do so you can keep them top of mind. Build your referral partner network with quality in mind and be selective on who you team up with because a bad referral will create negative ripples about your credibility. Personally directing business to people only because they give you referrals or offer you money or gifts for those referrals without believing in their products and services will not enhance your business, reputation or your brand and will slowly tear it down.
Lester Salvatierra is an experienced Finance Specialist with First U.S. Finance (http://www.FirstUSFinance.com). He helps small to mid-size companies lease or finance a wide variety of equipment and special projects for upgrades and expansions. He is also a networking pro and BNI Area Director in Ventura County, CA. Lester@FirstUSFinance.com Ph: 805-217-9896
With over 5,500 active chapters, and over 100,000 members throughout every populated continent worldwide, BNI is the largest and most successful business referral organization in the world. BNI was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ivan Misner and the organization, which allows only one person from each profession to join a chapter, offers members the opportunity to share ideas, contacts, and most importantly, referrals. Last year alone, members of BNI passed 6.2 million referrals, generating 2.6 billion dollars’ worth of business.
For more information on BNI, please visit http://www.bni.com/ or call BNI Headquarters at 909.608.7575.
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