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The number one reason you may be waiting a LONG time to receive referrals from your referral partners

By Brenda Thomson

If you’re like most small business owners, receiving referrals from referral partners can be a bit of a random affair. Typically it goes something like this:

  1. You meet someone who shares your target market and is in a position to see potential clients in need of your services.
  2.  You begin to establish a relationship.  Have a coffee meeting. Find out more about one another. Make sure there is a fit terms of shared values, quality of service etc.
  3. You exchange cards and possible a bit of marketing material and agree to exchange referrals and…….
  4. Most often NOTHING happens.

So let’s analyse what’s going on here a bit deeper by looking at what prompts most of us to give a referral.

  1. The first thing that happens is that someone who trusts our opinion asks us if we know anyone who can help them solve a problem or achieve a result.
  2. We think about who we know and trust who we believe has the ability to help with solving the problem or achieving the desired result.
    1. If we know someone who we are confident fits the bill we’ll make an enthusiastic referral.
    2. If we know someone that we think might fit the bill – we’ll pass on a cautious introduction.
    3. If we don’t know anyone but we’re really proactive we’ll ask our contacts if they know anyone or make some suggestions on how the person with the problem might be able to find someone to help.
    4. If we’re really busy or not that proactive we’ll probably say – “sorry can’t help”.

Now the problem here, if we are the person waiting and hoping for referrals, is that it’s dependant on the person with a problem directly asking our referral partners for an introduction to us, the person who can help solve their problem.  We’re leaving an awful lot to chance there:

  • Is our referral partner the first or only person they will ask?
  • If our referral partner the person whose opinion they trust the most?
  • Does our referral partner understand our business well enough to refer the right people or to make our business stand out from the other referrals the person with the problem may have received? …

Now one way we could turn this around is by asking all of our referral partners to “watch out for referrals for us”. What that really means we want them to do is start proactively asking their clients and contacts if they have the problem that we solve. In other words, turning our referral partners into our marketing and sales team.

Now if someone you know – no matter how much you like, respect and trust them asks you to do that most of us have two different responses:

  1. The one we say:  “Sure!  Happy to help.  Give me some cards and some marketing material and I’ll keep an eye out.”
  2. And the one we think –  “I have my own business to run, my own sales to worry about. I’d love to help but I don’t have time to look for customers for you – but of course if someone asks me I’ll pass it on” and we’re right back where we started.

Because you see the problem here is that we have set up a WIN-WIN-LOSE relationship.

The person receiving the referral WINS – when they ever receive one, (hopefully the person being referred also WINS by having their problem solved) but what’s in it for the person passing on the referral? (other than a warm glow because they have helped someone? Warm glows are great, but they don’t run a business, put profits in the bank, pay the staff, put food on the table or more hours in the day.)

And that’s the number one reason so many referral partnerships don’t work.

Now I’m not suggesting for a moment that you offer payments or financial incentives; for many people that can actually be a disincentive, but there is a better way.

You’ll find the answers in the feature article   “Seven steps referral partnerships that really work” to find out what it is and how you can make it work in your business….

Brenda Thomson

Brenda Thomson

CEO and Founder, Synergy48 Group

Brenda has an honours degree in organizational psychology and a Graduate Certificate in training and development and she is an experienced trainer, facilitator and counsellor. She is a firm believer in mutual collaboration combined with a practical, hands on tools, strategies and systems as the most effective way to achieve real results in business. 

Brenda has over 20 years of experience training in communication, team work, time management, productivity, organisation and strategic planning in large organisations. She is also the developer of the Business Benchmarking Toolkit used by Synergy48 Group members and clients to identify areas for improvement in their business processes.

Brenda is a sought after mentor, speaker and trainer in the areas of strategic partnerships and networking with a difference.  She is passionate about actively giving back to the community. In addition to donating her speaking fees and a proportion of every Synergy48 Group membership to provide microfinance to help women in Malawi to start their own businesses, Brenda has climbed the Himalayas to raise money for Kids Help Line and helped lay a pipeline to supply water to a remote village in Tanzania.


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