5 Keys to Becoming a Great Giver (and Recipient) of Referrals

By Published On: November 2, 2021Categories: Blog0 Comments
Two Workforce Consultants High-Fiving After a Successful Referral

Who doesn’t love a good referral – for a restaurant, a movie, a new connection, a service provider? We save time and energy when we have at least one person we know and trust doing some of the vetting for us.

In the consulting world, being referred for business is precious. We go to great lengths to provide highly-valued services and create meaningful relationships in part because we know that the best way to grow our businesses is through referrals. Knowing how to give and receive referrals well can be the key to targeted growth and overall business enhancement. It can also be rewarding to meet people outside of our own network and professional domains.

As a professional connector, I am here to offer a few words of wisdom about how to give and get quality referrals.

1. Be a good listener.

I meet several consultants on a daily basis, and I have to make sure that I listen intently so that I can differentiate them from one another and be a good steward of the relationship. If I don’t actively listen to who they are, how they present themselves, what they are looking for in a referral, I am failing at my promise to connect them with opportunities down the road. Listening isn’t just turning on the hearing aids. It’s paying close attention and really dialing into what the other person does, what they want to be doing, and how they can be part of a referral network. Not only is listening a good practice to be able to make referrals, but it also makes people feel good about themselves because they’ve been heard and known (even if briefly).

2. Consider the transitive property of referrals.

In math, the transitive property goes something like “If A=B and B=C, then A=C.” In business, it may work like this: “If A benefits from B and B benefits from C, then A benefits from C.” Or the converse: “If A helps B and B helps C, then A helps C.” In other words, sometimes referrals are twice removed. If you are listening carefully to people, you can sometimes see the threads that connect us, and that’s the magic! It may not be a business or a need that fits directly, but there might be an intermediary that is the linchpin between two businesses and needs both or feeds one to another. As a constant Connector, (#cliftonstrengths), I marvel in the threads that connect us and think that sometimes it even works out that C needs A (think about that one). Don’t let the potential middleman deter you from finding and connecting the right people.

3. Share the story (and some affirmations) when making an introduction.

A little background goes a long way. I receive emails with introductions on a daily basis, and I light up when I see the subject line “Making an introduction.” While I never rebuke an introduction, I do appreciate some more than others. When it’s just a hyperlink to their website or their LinkedIn, I use that, but it’s really not nearly as inspiring to me as a little personal testimonial. If it’s as simple as “I met ______________ when she provided _____________ service to our firm and was impressed by her content and approach,” that’s awesome. It says a lot about what that person does and why you’re referring her. Even better, though, are the introductions that pack a little more punch – like, “when I was in dire need of _____________ I connected with _____________ to help me solve the problem within our organization. He offered _______________ to us and the outcome was ___________________.” You get the picture. More detail is better. I also REALLY like when the referral frames up who I am to the other person. So, not just saying who the consultant is, but also why he/she might want to meet me. I’m especially fond of affirmations, so it goes a long way when someone says, “I’d like you to meet Christine. She runs a network of people professionals, and is a great listener and connector.”

4. Don’t play chicken waiting for the other person to reply first.

There is no rule about who should step in first to thank the referring party and move the introduction along. There’s also no rule about how long you have to wait to see if the other person will reply first. Whether you are being introduced for a potential job or just for networking purposes, go ahead and hit “reply-all” as soon as you’re ready. (I personally like to move the friend making the introduction to bcc so that he/she doesn’t have to listen to us schedule a meeting, but does get to hear my gratitude.) Don’t make it a cat and mouse game. Show interest, gratitude, enthusiasm as soon as you are able.

5. Demonstrate gratefulness… and reciprocity.

This goes without saying, but gratitude goes a long way… and so does reciprocity. I admire the way JoDee Curtis makes a personal and professional habit out of writing hand-written notes to thank people for just about everything. Who doesn’t love getting snail mail? Whether it’s a note in the mail, a separate email telling the person how things went, a referral back to them, or just a quick text saying thank you… do it! It’s a good professional and personal habit that won’t go unnoticed (and it may lead to more referrals). (At Powered by Purple Ink, we actually pay our network members for referrals for new consultants!)

I work in the business of connections, referrals, and networking. It’s my passion and my wheelhouse. Now, more than ever before, we have the ability to do business with just about anyone, and that can be rather overwhelming. Since available resources are vast and geographically unlimited, we must rely on good old-fashioned word of mouth to know who to hire. Your recommendations and referrals matter. Time to refine the art and science of great referring. The fruits of your labor will be reciprocated.

Christine is the Vice President of Strategy and Operations for Powered by Purple Ink. Although she is not an HR professional, she is definitely a people person. She spent the first half of her career in education as a high school history teacher and then in curriculum development for television and web, and then went on to become a content marketer – mostly for SaaS companies. All along, she’s been a consummate connector – whether between people and content or between people and people.

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