Over the years in my BNI (Business Network International) experience a number of members have said to me that they just don’t know how to give me a referral or who to refer me to. I have also heard that said to others within our chapter. I would like to take that on as a challenge to help you to provide more referrals.
First off, referrals don’t usually (but occasionally) just happen. It is more rare than common that someone will say to you, “Hey I am thinking of refinancing my house, do you know anyone I can talk to?” Or someone who says, “Hey, my business is really struggling, do you know a good business consultant that I can talk to?” It may happen but it wouldn’t be common.
Second, you are not going to refer people to someone you don’t trust or like. This is a difficult subject for most people. If you are not very confident that the chapter member is trustworthy and credible, you are not going to want to take the risk that they will make you look bad to that client, friend or even prospect. This subject is a little bigger than we have time to discuss now. I will plan to come back to it some other time.
Third, a good referral does not mean that the person has money in hand waiting to buy what your chapter member is selling. Keep in mind, any connection that can help the other person to improve or move their business forward can be a good referral. Some people have important connections, some people have products and services that we need (backward referral), others may need the products and services that your chapter members provide. However, sometimes your chapter members have other assets or resources that are important to your network. Let’s say that you know a chapter member who is a collector of “whatever” and you have a “prospect, client or center of influence person that you also know is a collector of “whatever”, bringing these two together maybe in your best interest, even if it doesn’t bring you immediate business.
Lastly (for now), you may need to “work” at giving a referral. Maybe you need to put one or two members on a 3 x 5 card and put them on your desk while you actually shuffle through your database (business cards, etc.) to “create” a connection. These referrals may not be as “hot” as the “money in the hand” types, but they may be perfect and you just didn’t think about the connection.
Many business people have a large even though not necessarily deep network. There are a lot of people that I know on a first name basis when I go to a Chamber event or other organization meeting, but I don’t know their last name. The problem is that person doesn’t fit into my close network, but they might fit into yours. Let’s say that you sell chemicals for the pool/aquarium industry to retailers, and let’s say I’m an industrial specialty steel salesman. There are no real connections between these two networks. However, while “working” to see how I can help my chemical sales friend I see that in my networks I do know someone who is in construction (maybe the pool angle) and I know someone who has a salt water fish tank (or non-salt water fish something). I decide that with a quick phone call I can possibly find a connection. This wouldn’t be easy, but it is doable. It may not be the best referral but it could be a perfect one as well. The fish referral knows the owner of a chain of pet stores, bingo!
So, are you just waiting for the referrals to show themselves to you? Are you trustworthy and credible? One person put it this way, stop asking for referrals and start deserving recommendations. Be honest with others or maybe an honest sit down conversation with someone who doesn’t have something to lose if they tell “you” the truth could help. Are you pre-qualifying or over-qualifying your potential referrals that you could give, instead of letting your chapter member do what they do best, sell themselves? And finally, are you willing to work at it? To be a good networker usually requires “WORK”! No matter if you give or receive, it takes work.
Receiving and giving referrals goes both ways. But remember, “Giver’s Gain!”