Have you ever gone on a blind date? One of your friends, or family members decided to fix you up with someone they know. They believe the two of you are a perfect fit. So, probably reluctantly, you agree and go on the date. Unfortunately, most of the time these dates don’t turn out too well. You think to yourself, ‘What in the world was my friend thinking? Why did they think I would like THAT person?’
The next time you see your friend you give them an earful about the experience and how they seem to see you.
Well, in the business world we can have the same experience. It’s called a referral. Some people can refer us to companies/people who just aren’t a good fit. There are a couple of problems with this. We end up spending time on the wrong thing. We might feel a sense of obligation to find a way to work with that person or company even though they aren’t a good fit. This can be a disaster for our company. There’s nothing more dangerous than a really bad client – with the exception of having more than one bad clients.
Any time we spend on bad referrals, dead-ends, difficult clients is time we aren’t spending growing our business. And these experiences can make us dislike our work. That might be the biggest problem of all. We deserve to love our work, to have a passion for it, and be eager to engage every day. If someone changes that feeling for us we need to fire them instantly.
How is it that people can give us such bad referrals and what can we do about it?
There are a couple of possible reasons why this happens:
- They aren’t really thinking about it. They just want to offer you a referral so you’ll reciprocate.
- They are well-meaning but don’t really understand what you do.
- They understand what you do but don’t know what a good referral looks like for you.
Working backwards, let’s take a look at each of these with an eye toward what we can do to fix the problem.
#1. When someone’s heart is in the right place but they aren’t really coming through with solid referrals it’s an opportunity to work with them toward a better understanding. This is someone who wants to be helpful and thinks they have a sense of what you are looking for. A conversation with this person will help them understand and then do a better job of referring you.
#2. When someone doesn’t understand what you do it is another good time to educate them. If they really have the intention of connecting you with people/companies that might need what you sell then you owe it to them, and yourself, to spend some time explaining your business to them. If you do something that is technical or hard to understand you can give them the highlights. Those highlights include the problems you solve and the kind of companies/people you help. When you can keep it clear and succinct they don’t have to have a deep knowledge of your business in order to send you referrals.
With these two groups of people the thing to remember is that they really do want to help you. They think they are providing you with quality referrals that should lead to business. They will feel bad if that turns out not to be true. So, work with them to overcome the obstacles to those good blind dates.
#3. This is a whole different animal! This person isn’t paying attention at all and is most likely only thinking about themselves. They want to appear to be a good referral partner. They want people to think they are giving. And at the same time, they are hoping people will feel obligated to refer them in return. So, their focus is only on what they can gain, not how helpful they can be. I don’t believe there is much you can do with these people. You can thank them for thinking of you and explain why their referrals aren’t working out. And in the future, you probably don’t want to spend any time pursuing them. That IS a choice you have.
Blind date; referral. The line is blurry! Sometimes they are so very similar it can be frustrating. When you find yourself feeling like you’re being sent on blind dates, take a step back and decide what action makes sense. Then seek to resolve the issue so the ‘dates’ you are sent on are worth it.