We all know the value of referrals, although some seem to revere the practice a little too much, suggesting it trumps or eliminates cold calling or other forms of buyer engagement, when we all know it is about how to integrate approaches. But that’s for another post, today I want to focus on the etiquette of what we should do when someone refers business to us.
I give my share of referrals, mostly because I know what I do well and when my clients have a requirement beyond that, I prefer to refer it to someone who knows what they are doing. This delivers value to my clients, puts me in the role of trusted advisor, and helps another expert/provider. And that latter bit that sometimes is mishandled by people, sometimes putting a wrench in an otherwise productive flow.
More often than not, when I refer someone it is when I am actively engaged with the buyer, and they require the capability the person I am referring the business to. An example would be someone looking to hire and reps to their team, and we decide to hold off on training until the team is full. I refer it to a recruiter, my opportunity is contingent on the recruiter doing their bit.
Most people understand that they should communicate continuously with the person who gave the referral, especially when both are engaged with the same buyer at the same time as part of the same process. In the example above, salesforce improvement. Without that communication, I am unable to respond to the buyer should questions come, nor can I support their cause without knowing what is going on. This gets even more dicey when the two opportunities are intertwined, a lack of communication can not only make us look sloppy in the eyes of the mutual buyer, but can derail things for all parties.
I know this all sounds elementary, but you would be surprised. Some of the most capable people I know come up short in this simple follow up step, undermining the quality of their opportunity, and more importantly any future referrals from me, as I am not one to fly in the dark, I prefer a different set of risks.
Everyone like getting referrals, and most of us like to give referrals for the reasons above, but getting is step one, earning the next referral is step two, three and four. Pick up the phone, send an e-mail, no need for the whole Megillah, just a few highlights, and done. If I have to ask the buyer how things are progressing with the work you are doing for them, it makes us both look bad, and I don’t like looking bad.