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.