Even today, as far as digital marketing and lead generation has come, nothing compares to a personal referral.
The level of trust and value placed on such referrals is virtually irreplaceable, and the cost of a referral is a fraction of any other marketing tactics.
With the overwhelming nature of information today, unfortunately, simply being referred is no longer enough. A well-intentioned introduction free of context could go unnoticed, unacted-upon, or lost in a sea of frantic daily activity.
I once asked a Vistage Chair, Pablo Richeri, how he refers his members to resources. As a Vistage Chair, Pablo is especially invested in every resource introduction he makes. His insights offer a method and action steps we can all implement in our own referrals—those we make, and those we receive.
Before he makes an introduction, he confirms with his members that they are committed to following up with the resource.
Then he makes the introduction, virtually, and commits to following up with both individuals within a designated follow-up period (in his case, three days).
After his designated follow-up period, he contacts both individuals to confirm they are now on each other’s calendars.
The day after the scheduled calendar date, he follows up with his referred member to get feedback on the value of the referred resource and any next steps.
Whether you are making a referral or receiving one, here are some additional tips for making referrals more productive and mutually beneficial for all involved.
Request the Referral
It is not as easy as asking, but it’s a simple truth: If you don’t ask, you likely won’t receive. It also helps to make your referral ask as precise as possible and make it easy to remember.
If I say, for example, “I help companies bridge transition gaps and I would appreciate a referral to any business owner you know,” that is a very challenging proposition for someone to remember. I may not know who or when to refer. On the other hand, I recently connected with Michael Psomas of Audit Prep. They help companies prepare for audits. They have a system, a checklist, and solve a niche problem that most companies face. As he talked about the one thing they do (just one), it was easy for me to think through clients and situations I have encountered in which he would have been a great resource to refer.
Discuss the best way to make a referral
If referrals feel like facing a firing squad for you, I highly recommend Joanne Black’s, “How to Ask for Referrals: A Comprehensive Guide.” She is one of the leading experts and has put together a tremendous “Step 1, 2, 3” system for transforming anyone into a referral magnet.
And there are even more resources available to strengthen your referral game.
I was first introduced to Stacey Broadwell, CEO of TechRecruit, when she reached out to me on LinkedIn as a potential speaker at an upcoming conference she was hosting. Intrigued, I responded (which is rare for me, given the number of inquiries I receive). Stacey has built an empire, transforming a small networking group into a conference series. She explains, “As I produce activations through live events, my network is part Talent Acquisition—part Chief Technology Officer and part People Analytics professionals. As such, I am constantly making introductions uniting the two. For example, I hosted a CTORoundtable.com event last month and one of the panelist was a perfect fit a role at Google. One of my speakers for TechRecruit.io conference is a recruiter for Google. I introduced them over Linkedin. Success!”
Respect Referral Time and Preferences
Even though we all put our pants on one leg at a time, that doesn’t mean we all refer the same way.
When you first meet with a potential referral partner, ask the important questions.
How do they prefer to make and receive referrals?
Do they prefer to be contacted first?
By phone, text, or email?
When is it appropriate to schedule a group coffee or lunch?
How will each of you follow up and care for the referral as well as keeping the other in the loop?
While being respectful of time, understand how the individual prefers to make introductions so you best know how to care for them when the time comes.
Follow Up On The Referral
Whether you can benefit more or less from the referral (this time), follow up. Take every referral as an opportunity to discover how you can help someone, today and it will be returned in multiples tomorrow.
That’s the law of karma in action.
To keep the ball moving, suggest some dates and times in your initial response email. (Once it goes back and forth more than two to three times, the likelihood of a conversation or connection goes down.)
Closing The Loop To The Original Individual Who Referred
I have made hundreds of referrals over the years, and yet I have to think harder than I should to come up with the limited number of times someone circled back to me and let me know how the referral went. The one that stands out in my Bob Kushner, Partner KSJG CPA.
Bob spoke to both parties before making the introduction. He made the introduction. Instead of just leaving it there, Bob then followed up with me and asked if that was a valuable introduction. He requested any feedback for how he can help shepherd it forward in the future.
Without knowing it, he and Pablo Richeri followed the very same steps and the very same system. The four keys are the same, and the best practices of referrals are clear.
A Virtual Referral Template from the Real World
I was recently at a dinner with a handful of executives. Trent McCracken, Interim CEO, shared how he developed a network in Chile working as an advisor for technology companies; the power of referrals is global. Here’s an example of a virtual referral introduction Trent recently received, praised, and appreciated.
It’s a wonderful example of a personal referral; He has been generous enough to share it in the hopes others can use it as an example when they write their own.
<Name>, I’d like to introduce you to Trent. I’ve know Trent for many years now, and have reconnected with him recently as he wraps up his MBA in International Business from UC. He has a fair amount of international experience, and is very passionate about that like you – so I thought you two should know one another. He’s run tech companies in the SMB space (under $100MM typically), and is looking for his next opportunity as a senior leader – doesn’t have to be CEO. but COO, EVP, CTO/CIO…those are all areas depending on the size of company and industry that he most certainly is qualified for. I wanted the two of you to connect if possible.
Trent…<Name> is a loooooong time client of mine…quite possibly one of my earliest clients. He’s been a CFO for many years and has successfully worked with PE firms and VC’s to engineer very successful exits…he’s a pro-growth CFO with an impeccable track record…and a love for international business.. like you.
I’ll let you two exchange numbers and set up a call/coffee if you can – but you’re both definitely two leaders I greatly respect and who should be in each others’ networks.