It occurs to me I've not yet written about how to properly give a referral to another person. Over the past months, I've explained:
why networking is useful compared to other types of marketing
that 1-2-1 meeting are where you actually build mutually beneficial relationships
the real value in those relationships beyond the simple value of a transaction
what kinds of information you can and should collect at networking events
what to do at initial 1-2-1 meetings
some misunderstandings and misconceptions about networking
the moral framework of why networking actually works
how the process of networking fits into your sales process, and why it applies to all you encounter
But in these blog posts I have yet to explain what a referral is and how to give one. Referrals are different from leads, qualified leads, and recommendations. They are the opposite of cold calls. And the difference is simply this: a referral is expecting you to contact them.
I've seen referrals defined in different ways, but the one I prefer is:
a warm introduction to yourself, to a potential customer, to a source of further referrals, and to other resources that solve problems.
I like this definition because it considers referrals that are not specifically business related (a referral could be to another networker or networking group, to a club or team, to an event or class, to a book or website, etc.) And because of the warm introduction, one or both parties in the referral is expecting the other to connect (and if you set these up in certain ways, both parties are expecting to connect with each other!)
Let me clarify this: Leads are lists of potential customers. Qualified leads have met some qualification, or perhaps been contacted about their needs. Recommendations are testimonies about value - and while they may be glowing reviews, they lack the warm introduction. Cold calls are initial contacts with people with whom you have no prior connection. There is zero expectation by the receiver that someone would connect with them, and no proper, warm introduction.
Yes, the other types of contact can be effective. Imagine how much more effective they would be with a proper introduction before the contact.
Introduce people to each other, not just in one direction
Imagine you have two people you are friendly with who have not yet met each other - and perhaps, without your introduction, they might never meet. You might be the only connection between them, and you believe there is a benefit to one (or more likely, both) of them to meet the other.
There is no one way to make this connection, but the best introductions have certain characteristics:
1) Each person is told about the other before the introduction.
2) An expectation is set in each one’s thoughts about potential benefits of being introduced to the other.
3) Permission to make the introduction is granted by both people.
4) A warm introduction is made (referencing some or all of the above characteristics.)
Telling each about the other (or, more accurately, describing the referral to each person) shows that you have listened to the person, thought about what might benefit them, and care enough to suggest a potential connection you would like to make. Setting the expectation explains to the person why you thought the connection would benefit them and allows them an opportunity to correct your understanding of their needs.
Asking for permission to make a referral is often ignored. We get so excited about the opportunity to help someone else that we overlook their current situation. Perhaps they are too busy right now to respond to a referral, or they could be going through a transition that will change the nature of the referrals they would prefer. Simply asking each party (unless they recently and specifically said "I'm looking for this tight now:...") "Is this the right time for me to have them call you?" can help you better serve them. Also, asking for the permission of each person to allow the other to contact them is important.
Lastly, the warm introduction itself can be done in many ways. Personal introductions are typically best, but they require everyone to be located at the same place and that cannot always be done. When this condition cannot be met, an introduction by three-way-phone-call or email can work well. Less warm, but still considered by most people to be a referral (it still has aspects of the warm introduction, but relies much more on your influence over the referee) would be to share some contact information with one of the people, tell that person why you think they should connect, and to also ask for permission to have your referral contact them (maintaining the expectation of connection).
Please consider these types of introductions when doing most of your referrals.
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