Most of the advice out there about referrals is related to your customers (i.e., getting them to send you new ones.)
In short, make them happy and they’ll want to tell their friends about you.
But you can also get some fabulous referrals from your peers and colleagues — and sometimes even from so-called competitors!
The funny part is, most of these folks probably won’t have worked with you as a client or customer. So how do you earn their trust enough so that they’ll say you’re a 5-star quality professional?
It’s pretty simple actually. (Not necessarily easy — but definitely simple.) Just look at it from their perspective: if they refer you and you drop the ball (even a little), it could make them look bad in the eyes of the person they gave your name to.
Here’s what I look for before I ever pass your name on to someone:
1. A professional website. It’s your calling card. It tells people you’re a legitimate business (or not) by the way it’s designed and the content that’s there. If you don’t have a current website (especially if you do something related to marketing), I will not have the confidence to refer you. There are a lot of nuances that go into something looking and functioning in a way that presents you as professional. One of the most important is whether or not you publish your phone number. Contact by e-mail only won’t cut it. The lack of a phone number means you don’t want to be called. Ever. And that’s a red flag in my book. There’s other stuff too, so if you’re in doubt, shoot me an email or leave a link to your website in a comment below and I’ll be happy to take a quick look.
2. A solid reputation. Someone I know needs to have worked with you and is willing to vouch for your expertise. If you’ve got testimonials on your website, even better. There needs to be some evidence that you can do what you say you can do.
3. A clear product or service offering. I want you to specialize in what you do. I don’t want you to be a jack of all trades. It’s okay if you’re good at a bazillion things, just don’t sell them all on your website. I want to know you have focus and clarity about who you are and what you can do for people.
4. Be a leader. Are you stepping out on a regular basis to volunteer or help others? Do you share yourself generously? (And I don’t mean in a TMI way on Facebook.) Once in a while a rant is okay, but if the bulk of what you talk about falls under complaints and negativity, I’m going to shy away from calling you my peer. Also, if you happen to be more of taker than a giver — always asking for help, but never stepping up and offering it — I’ll notice.
5. Deliver REAL value. You don’t need to be the least expensive option. In fact, I will probably avoid you like the plague if you are. But you do need to understand that your pricing will reflect a particular level of expertise. Are you a beginner? Then don’t price yourself like one. And whatever level you’re at, be sure to over deliver on your promises. If you meet the above criteria, I’ll be much more likely to refer you to my friends and clients. And of course, if I get to know you personally (and I like you and trust you), the referrals will come even harder and faster. The first referral is always the hardest. You’ve got to do a fabulous job (believe me, I’ll ask) and you’ll need to follow up with me so I know how it went from your side.
How’s Your Network?
This is why it’s important to get out there and meet people that serve your potential customers. Professional associations, conferences, trade events — these are all great places to meet new colleagues. And let’s not forget online groups and classes, too.
Be proactive and introduce yourself to the people you think would make good referral sources. Help them first. Send them a referral or two. Take your time and nurture the relationship. And when you feel like you know each other well enough, reach out and see if they’d be willing to work on a joint project together.
Online we tend to call these types of things co-promotions, JVs (for Joint Ventures) or affiliate programs. They’re usually short-term projects where you work together to promote each other’s business and/or offer the other person a percentage of each sale (e.g. a commission).
But be careful! Offering to pay me to refer you isn’t a big motivator — mostly because you’re not just asking for a minute of my time, you’re asking me to put my credibility on the line. I’m careful. I’ve learned my lessons with affiliate marketing (which is why I won’t be an affiliate for something I haven’t personally used and experienced myself).
And I won’t just participate in your telesummit because you’re “nice” or because I like you personally. When we work together, everything about you becomes an extension of me and my business (and vice versa). So if the way you market yourself or the way you deliver your product or service doesn’t gel with my own values, it’s not gonna work. But hey, I’m always looking for great folks to refer, so if you’re not already on my resource list, go ahead and leave me a link to your website in a comment below and tell us about your superpowers.
Hey there Tea…I’m missing that phone number thang…dang it (smile) and would love to be on your resource list! My superpowers? Streamlining, automating and systematizing the backend of things and repurposing content 100 ways from Sunday!
OK don’t judge me yet–just stepping out and my new website is not up yet. Love this site and stepping out and moving ahead
Yes! The length of the relationship is important. But also you and I see each other in action pretty much every month. So we know things about each other’s work habits based on our participation in the Word Carnival. That helps us see each other’s true level of recommendability (a new word!).I would also recommend you, my friend.
I’m with Melanie Tea and would have no hesitation to refer you even though i haven’t YET experienced your services. So I think that a length of relationship and communication which builds trust can over-ride the need to have experienced the service. But your list is super clear and a really good check for all of us to see that we are cutting the mustard ourselves as part of the referral chain. I am in the process of a web- rebuild for the very reasons you have mentioned. It can happen online quite easily as we add to our original offers without a view to how this might be confusing to our first time visitor or referree/al. Great advise as always.
Tea I appreciate the perspective of how you would determine if a person is referral worthy. I’m going to head back over to my website and see if it passes muster.I love your comment about only being an affiliate for products and services you’ve used or people you’ve worked with. I have that same rule. Since I’m often helping people with money I feel an extra layer of responsibility when recommending someone or something. If I don’t believe they can get a decent ROI I won’t promote it.
I was thinking about mentioning the whole JV thing in my post…but I figured that customers are the best source of potential referrals. And even in the affiliate sense, as you mention, it’s always better to have an affiliate that actually uses your product. If nothing else, they can speak more intelligently to it.
Great points, Tea. The only one I slightly disagree with is the phone number thing. Location independent types aren’t always accessible by phone, so if the other points are good, the lack of a phone number isn’t a red flag for me. I’d also like to second the bit about JVs putting your reputation on the line – I am very careful about what I promote.
A clear product and service offering – over and over again that was the thing that stopped me from getting regular referrals. I mean – I’d do something really good for a client, they’d be super grateful, and then I’d get a recommendation on LinkedIn from it.Then, they might pass my name on to someone else, who needed XYZ when what I offered was VWX (because I’d gotten tired of offering XYZ).Over time, I also grew out of the price market of the folks who were referring me – too. So I had to raise and raise and raise my prices which led to not just referral confusion but folks who were expecting the moon for pennies on the dollar. Yuck.That REAL value thing is super important; what are you getting for what you paid for. I had to figure out how to answer that question when clients asked me “why are you charging 10x more for your websites now?”
I like the fact that your angle was “what IIIIII look for when referring someone” so it’s not some abstract list. It’s the real deal! And I agree with them all. It’s OUR ass on the line when we refer someone and we want to make darn sure we’re referring someone good. Whenever I send someone a referral, I make sure they tell the person “CL sent me” so that the seed is planted that I expect a stellar job! In a way, referrals help keep us at our best because we have two people to please – our new client and the person who sent them over and wants to make sure you make them look good. I also think it’s a better idea to network with the competition (and refer people if you have overflow or if the fit isn’t right for you) than to actually compete. And I second what Melanie said – no hesitation about referring you to anyone!
I absolutely love your list! Very clear and precise and I could not agree more. I have been paid for a referral a few years back. I had no idea that was coming. I just happened to be in a clients office and one of their friends asked about a service and I knew the person offered it, very unique and I mentioned it. Turned out they worked together for months and I got a nice little stipend as a surprise gift. You bet I always referred after that too, but no more checks! I have to say I did not do my homework I was just trying to help at the time. I agree with your list and truly abide by similar expectations now..(another referral was not so good). Your list is giving me some other ideas I need to establish and utilize to be more succinct especially because I have a friend in a new business and I would like to refer to her, but I need to learn more specially what it is she is doing and how well she is performing…Thanks Tea!
Totally understandable why you abide by this list of “must-haves”, Tea. I can easily see how one might get bitten in the butt otherwise. Kinda reminds me of being a direct reflection of who we hang out with in our personal lives. It really does matter.I must add this, however …Without an ounce of hesitation, I would recommend you, your products and/or services — even though I may not have experienced them myself. For me, I guess it’s purely a trust factor. I feel I have a really good grip on “how you roll”. 🙂