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When Is a Referral Never a Referral?

Dec 5, 2007
I am asked all the time: How do you know if a referral is a good referral versus it being a bad referral? The answer is quite simple: From the involvement (or lack thereof) from the referral source.

What do I mean when it comes to referral marketing?

I always advocate that a person should earn referrals by way of personal (in-person or telephone) introductions. Never ask for (nor accept) a person's name or telephone number just because someone gave it to you. Now I need to say this: A person may feel as though they are genuinely referring you to another simply by giving you the name of a person. But they really aren't helping you. All they are doing is providing you a name and phone number, and in most instances, cursory conversations about you.

This type of referral (or introduction) is missing some very important elements. Let me explain further.

Here's a scenario that has happened to us all: A close colleague sees you in person and hands you a business card from someone they met during lunch this weeks. Your colleague tells you that you should contact the person because they may be interested in working with you.

How do you handle this situation? Take the business card? Pick up the telephone??

Obviously you don't want to be rude. But this form of "referral" is what I would call a cold-introduction. Before taking any action on your part, you are much better thanking your colleague for mentioning your name and then replying to them, as follows:

"That's great to hear Sue. Glad your lunch went well. But would you mind doing me a favor? Would you contacting her again and let her know I'll be calling?

Or you could ask, "Would you mind contacting her again to see if the three of us could have lunch together?"

The key concept here is that personal introductions will always trump cold introductions, especially in the game of referrals. You should strive for this level of commitment from others who recommend you to prospects. After all, they are endorsing you by recommending you to others.

That's not an attitude of being conceited. It's just being downright respectful to the other person's time.

Or you could even say something like:

"Sue, again, I appreciate you mentioning my name. Have you told her to expect my phone call? Would you be willing to call her again tomorrow and mention that we both talked, and that I'll be calling soon? Would you please do that for me??"

Notice how you are enlisting the referral source's help in warmly introducing you to the other person, even after their preliminary discussions about you.

Action Step: Train your colleagues, clients and prospects that you want their personal introductions of you to others. Always attempt to enlist their help in introducing you handing you a name and telephone number.
About the Author
Daryl Logullo is the Founder of Strategic Impact! and MaximumReferrals.com. He concentrates on referral building strategies for today's professional. Grab a FREE Sample Client Referral Letter ($199 value),
instantly delivered to you at
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