Working with Referrals

Have you ever gotten a referral from someone that turned out to be a very profitable project? It is a great feeling isn’t it? Have you ever given someone a referral that didn’t do what they were supposed to do? That probably left you feeling lower than an ant on the ant hill. Referrals are very important to business, to self esteem, and to our integrity as a person. Whether you are giving someone a referral or accepting a referral how you act upon it or deal with it says much about you but also the person that the referral came from.

Back when I was starting at a moving company I was 17 years old, the boss liked the way I worked and asked if I knew anyone else that would like a job. He assumed that my friends would be as hard working as I was. The friend that I recommended turned out to be the laziest guy on the block, very loud, with no customer service skills at all. I felt terrible and he eventually got fired, but his work ethic was a direct reflection on me. I was too young to know that at the time and vowed it would never happen again. This has happened in business as fellow entrepreneurs that seem to be very driven and dedicated are looking for business. I give them a lead and tell them to take good care of the person and sometimes I am let down again by people not following up, or not getting them the information required promptly. I have been given leads that I follow up with, they accept the project, waste my time, and then seem to disappear. All of this looks worse on the person who gave the referral than the person that I am working with. I don’t understand why people go to business meetings, network, and spend most of their waking moments looking for business, then when it is handed to them through a referral they blow it by doing nothing or not following up properly, it blows my mind. So what is the best way to handle referrals and be successful.

First, when you have been given a referral follow up immediately with the client. Treat that client as gold and make sure you inform the client that your friend is an amazing person and thought the contact would be a good fit for the project. Once you’ve contacted the client respond back to your friend, thank them for the referral and give them a status on where the conversation ended and the next steps to be taken. Once the project is completed you may want to thank your friend with a lunch or small gift, of course the best thing is to refer business in return to them if applicable. If the client was referred for one project only and is a client of your friend then any future sales or contact should go through your friend unless otherwise arranged. Don’t steal a client from your friends it won’t take you very far down the road. Blow a referral and you may be blowing future business right down the toilet.

About the Author

Bruce Outridge is a business and leadership consultant. He specializes in two areas namely transportation and the visual arts and helps entrepreneurs start and run successful businesses. For more information visit his website at

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