The risks with referrals

We all love getting referrals. 

Who doesn’t like getting a useful referral? They are usually an easier sales pitch as the referrer has already done some of the work for you.  I acquired a new client at the end of last week from a referral, so I am particularly positive about them at the moment. 

There is one real issue that stops people giving referrals – the risk to them. 

Let me explain: 

When someone refers you, particularly to one of their clients, a little bit of their reputation goes with the referral.  There is a, hopefully, small risk that you won’t do a good job.  If that happens, there is a potential risk that your referrer could lose their client.  

On the positive side, if you do a very good job, their reputation is enhanced with that client. You are then far more likely to get more referrals from that person.  

The principle of liking comes into play here which can be broken up into three simple points;   

  • having a preference for those that we consider like ourselves in behaviour, values and attitudes,   
  • those that pay us genuine compliments, and most importantly,  
  • those that cooperate with us towards shared goals and vision 

Therefore, when some refers you, by managing to match the positive perception of the referrer, their reputation is enhanced with that client. You then gain an increased trust, improving the likelihood of you gaining further referrals from that person. 

So the morale of this blog is simple, if you are looking at getting referrals from your network, make sure you deliver on your promises.  

If you are looking to further improve your prospects of effective networking and gaining relevant referrals, our marketing experts at SME Needs are here for you.  

9 steps to better networking

Hi, my name’s Alex. I was told by Steve that you could help me.”

A phrase loved by business owners the world over. But how do you get this to happen more often?


Every business owner and director knows that networking is a great way to generate new business.  The problem is that most don’t know how to network effectively and expect results too soon.  Let’s look at nine steps to better networking to generate the sales opportunities you’re looking for.

1. Where to go

You could do breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks every day at networking events if you wanted to. If you want to be emailed a list of networking events each week, click here. The problem is you’d never actually do any work and you’d probably put on a few pounds.  You need to target your networking so it is effective.  Think about your ideal client and then consider: Where would they be?

You should also think about where other suppliers into your target market will network. Go to events where you are likely to meet with your target audience or their suppliers.  If you’re unsure, experiment.  Choose a event and try it out.

You do need to give any networking event a good try. Going once and rejecting it, simply because you didn’t get any business, is probably the biggest mistake business people make when trying to generate business through networking.

The other factor is when the event is.  If you’re a morning person, consider the breakfast events, but not if you’re a night owl.

2. Review the delegate list

If a delegate list is available beforehand, or provided when you arrive, run your eye over the list. Who should you talk to?  Who could be a client?  Who could be a useful connection into your target audience?  Make your networking effective by talking to the people most likely to generate business, either directly or indirectly.  Don’t, however, rebuke people who want to talk to you as you never know who they might know.

3. Mostly people you don’t know

Networking is a skill that needs to be learnt and many people don’t like talking to strangers.  What this often leads to is you spending the whole event talking to people you already know.  This maintains the relationship you have, but doesn’t expand your network.  For membership networking such as BNI, the room will mostly be people you know, but for more informal events, you won’t know most delegates.

Make it a rule to talk to at least X new people at every event.  You grow your network that way, finding people who can be useful to you, your clients and others in the network you already have.

4. Listen and ask questions

You only have a few minutes to find out about each person if you are going to make the event worthwhile, so make sure you get to know what they do, how they help their clients and the people they are looking for.   Show interest and get to know them; it makes them much more likely to want to listen to you before you both move on. If you want their card, ask. If you don’t, simply move on but don’t refuse to take their card if it is offered.

5. Follow up

Hopefully you met a good number of people who could be useful for your business, as clients, as suppliers or as introducers.  Your conversation at the event will give you a good idea but you won’t know for sure until you properly get to know them and that takes dedicated time. If you can meet to talk, thats great but it may be that a telephone call or video conference may have to suffice initially. Try to do this within a week or so to maintain the impetus.

Connect with them using social media such as Twitter and LinkedIn. They both make maintaining the relationship much easier.

6. Help them trust you

Earning their trust takes time, but start from the first moment you meet.  When its your turn to talk about what you do, use stories to educate them on how you help your clients. Continue this by avoiding bombarding them with sales messages after the event.  Nothing annoys more than a series of “Hi, I met you yesterday – buy me” messages.

7. Maintain communication

Part of earning their trust is maintaining communication.  Keep up to date with what they’re doing by subscribing to their mailing lists and add them to yours, after checking they are happy for you to do so.  Connect using social media and then simply call sometimes to talk. They will see you are in it for the long term and not just after a quick sale and this is a big step in helping them to trust you.

8. Give when you can

You go networking to generate new clients for your business, but if get an opportunity to introduce them to a potential business opportunity, do so.  I was always told to forget the referral I give, but remember those I receive.  As I get 100% of my business through my network, so I like to think I’m doing something right around this. Although I’ve recently walked away from BNI, their mantra is absolutely right: Givers Gain.

9. Look after their reputation

Attached to any referral is a little bit of the referrer’s reputation. The referrer is saying you can be trusted to deliver a great job and if you don’t next time Steve refers someone to Alex, he won’t trust him quite so much, if at all.  So look after Steve’s reputation by delivering on your promises and doing a great job.  You’ve then expanded your network and will have both Alex and Steve referring work to you.

To finish off, remember that networking is a long term approach.  You may be lucky and get a new client at your first event. Printers, florists and other low risk purchase providers often do, but for service providers and other higher-risk suppliers it will usually take longer. Simply follow this nine step process and you will get more referrals.

I hope this helps.

What do your clients think about you?

When was the last time you asked a client for feedback on the quality of the work you did for them?

What do your clients think about you? Do you know?

The more you understand about how your work is perceived, the better your work will become and the results of asking for feedback will help your marketing too.

The feedback will be somewhere between love and loathe and hopefully much closer to love than loathe. The closer to love it gets, the more you can ask for to help with your marketing.

When was the last time you asked a client for:

  • a personal recommendation on LinkedIn?
  • a referral to a connection of theirs who could use your services?
  • a services recommendation on your LinkedIn Company Page?
  • a testimonial?
  • a case study about the project you’ve just delivered?
  • a video testimonial?

All of the above support your marketing and provide a little extra proof that you do a great job. The more of it is available for prospects to read, the more likely they are to pick up the phone and ask you to help them.

Of course, there is a chance that the feedback will be closer to loathe than love. In some ways this is the best feedback because it gives you an opportunity to improve. You may even get a chance to improve your performance for that client, but even if you don’t the feedback will be invaluable for when you start work with your next client.

Either way, make sure you thank them for the feedback as they have helped you, no matter what they actually say.

Effective Referral Generation – a few simple steps

Ever wondered why you don’t get the number of referrals you would like?
Do you wonder why your best clients aren’t referring their clients and contacts to you?

Definition: A referral is where the person to whom you are being pointed, as a potential client, is in need of your services and is expecting your call.

I put the definition in to separate out referrals from leads.  A referral is given when the referrer has already talked about you to someone they know is in need for your services.  They will most likely have started the sales process by describing what you have already done for them and said what they thought of the work.  At that point the potential referral asks for contact details. If the referrer has already partially qualified the opportunity it only makes your life easier and a successful sale more likely.

Here’s a few tips that should help you get a few more referrals:

  1. If you ask for a referral you might get one. If you ask for five, you will get one, and possibly two
  2. Be specific when asking for the referrals. If you know the name of the person you would like to be introduced to, it makes it easier for you to be referred
  3. When you give a referral, never remember it. If you get a referral, never forget it
  4. Keep in contact for old clients. Just because they aren’t using your services right now, it doesn’t mean they won’t in the future and they cannot provide referrals
  5. Ask for referrals just after you have completed a piece of work your client is really happy with.
  6. Try to give referrals before expecting to receive.  They will feel like they need to work towards finding you referrals then
  7. Get to properly understand your customers.  Only then can you properly refer clients to them and you will also get a better understanding of the type of clients they can refer to you
  8. Check out your customers’ websites to see who they know.  Most companies have testimonial pages or client lists.
  9. Remember that a little bit of the referrer’s reputation comes with the referral. Don’t abuse their trust

If you have any more great tips, please add them in the comments section below. I will add them to the article and provide a link to your website or LinkedIn or Twitter account as a thank you.