So... you asked others for referrals and you've (finally) been given a referral by someone. Since you asked for them, you have an obligation to respond to the referral - that is what is typically meant by "follow-up". But what else can and ought you do (with the referral, and with the person who gave you the referral)?
Treat referrals like a gift
The most important thing to keep in mind is that every referral is a gift: the person making the referral thought enough of you (the recipient) to give you (some form of) an introduction to (someone or) something they thought you would appreciate. Obviously, not all gifts are the right gift for the receiver. Sometimes the sweater is too small. Sometimes the kitchen tool is not one we can use or we have too many of, and sometimes the gift is really not appropriate for our home.
The phrase "it's the thought that counts" is more applicable here than with a birthday present! There can never be an obligation to make a referral to a particular person, so you really do have to let the referrer know how much you appreciate the gesture, especially if it is not a good referral for you.
Looked at from the other direction, who are you more likely to give gifts to: people who respond favorably to all your efforts, people who complain about your efforts, or people who ignore your efforts on their behalf?
So, the first thing you ought to do with a referral is express appreciation to the person who gave it to you.
Ensure quality by qualifying the referral
If you do get an ugly sweater referral (the referral that is not what you want), you have at least been given an opportunity. The referrer is attempting to engage with you - so you have the chance to continue the conversation with them. You can:
· ask the referrer what made them think this was a good referral for you?
· ask the referrer what particular things do you say or do that made them think this was what you were looking for?
Now you have information you can use to adjust the way you market or present yourself. And you can take the time to better educate the referrer more specifically about what you are looking for in a referral.
Even if the referral appears to be exactly what you want, there are some qualifying questions the referrer may be able to answer that will help you better serve the referral and increase the likelihood of a successful follow-up. You can:
· ask the referrer how well and in what context do they know the referral?
· ask the referrer if there are any special personal or business situations you should be aware of when following-up?
· ask the referrer what you can do with this referral to help build their relationship?
Edify the referrer
Often a referral will be made to someone you do not already know. The only thing you have in common is your mutual connection to the person making the referral… and this is an excellent start when you know how to use it!
Your ability to "talk up" the person who made the referral will help improve the relationship between the referral and the person they referred, and it will help break the ice with the person you've just met. This can be done indirectly as "I've heard great things about <the referrer> from others I know and network with" or as a direct testimonial about your experiences knowing or working with the referrer.
Let the referrer know you made contact and how it went
Often lost in the shuffle and flow of our work is the process of touching base with the source of a referral. A simple email or call to let them know you reached out to the person they referred shows the referrer you are a credible solution for their network, and will encourage them to send more referrals your way. This can be supplemented with a thank you note or a note and a gift if the referral becomes very valuable to you.
Also let the referrer know if you attempted contact and were unsuccessful. They may be able to, and interested in, reaching out on your behalf again, and they may offer new information that can help make your eventual contact more successful.
Let us know what else you need to know how to do in your networking and referring. We’re here to help!