Referral relationships: beyond the ask

Ever hear of a solopreneur or business owner who didn’t appreciate good referrals?  Referrals absolutely rock.  Businesses are built and sustained on them.  Stories and statistics prove what efficient business-builders they can be.  And according to a survey done by the Small Business Administration you have a 60% chance of closing business from a referral; only a 10% chance from a cold call or new contact.

That’s profound math.  But how do you do make that math work for you

Many sales experts say it’s easy; you simply ask for referrals.  I believe it’s more complex than that.  Furthermore, I find it a little presumptuous, pushy, and even risky to suggest or embark on a referral relationship without some networking courtship and due diligence first.  When I’ve just met someone, they smoothly hand me their business card, and then they utter some over-rehearsed line that ends with a very smooth “I’d really appreciate your referrals…” I have to be honest; I cringe.

Why would I risk giving my referrals to (and betting my reputation on) someone just because they ask? To me it makes no sense.

Nope, I don’t buy the “just ask” method.  Unless, of course, some time has gone by and several signs are plainly evident.  Whether it’s you or the other person wanting to attract referrals, in order to be safely and irresistibly referable know you have to prove a few things over the course of time. You have to demonstrate you’re:

  1. Knowledgeable and talented
  2. Consistent and reliable
  3. Fair and respectful
  4. Professional and pleasant to work with
  5. Dedicated to quality, value, and great results for the customer

When you’ve built a reputation for exuding these traits and when you know the person you’re networking with has done the same, then by all means. Go ahead. Ask for and share referrals. It may not happen on first meeting, but it can happen as the relationships develops. In the end, the secret isn’t in the asking, it’s in the earning.  Which are you practicing?


Want more discover more ideas about how to give and attract high quality referrals in business? Get yourself a copy of my book The Intentional Networker™: Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals & Results in Business.  Available at all popular online retail outlets.



3 Responses to Referral relationships: beyond the ask
  1. Lorie Marrero
    September 1, 2011 | 10:14 am

    Amen, Patti! I cringe also when asked this without earning the privilege. Thanks for saying it!

  2. Julie Tereshchuk
    September 6, 2011 | 10:22 am

    The result of holding off on the ask, is that people will often take the initiative and refer you because they recognize you as someone they can reliably and gladly introduce to their network.

  3. Kali Rourke
    August 23, 2016 | 8:57 am

    I find there is a subtle distinction between a referral (When you are vouching for another’s good qualities and are therefore a bit on the hook if you don’t really know what they are!) and an introduction.
    I will sometimes be more willing to offer and make an email introduction, telling each of them a bit about the other, but making no personal recommendation of either of them. Then it is up to them to decide whether the introduction is viable and worth pursuing, on both sides.
    But in general, you are so right. When people as for a referral, they are really asking for an endorsement, and I don’t go there casually. Thanks for the post!

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