I’ve worked with an accounting firm for three years in marketing and every time I talk about consciously building up our referral network many partners roll their eyes. Complaints range from, not feeling comfortable “soliciting” business from someone else, getting the referral to follow through with their promise to send business over and keeping track of who had sent more business to who.
Here are a few thoughts that may make this process easier, more painless and successful.
First, forget about who has been sending business to whom. Just like in a lot of relationships there are times when one partner gives more while the other one takes. Chances are things are going to even themselves out given enough time.
Remember that referral recommendation is a two-way street. Too many times I’ve heard partners say things like “We never get business from banks.” Therefore, they don’t want to bend over backward to network with important players in banks. Meanwhile the partners aren't sending any business themselves and everyone is caught in the catch-22 of who is going to make the first move.
Sometimes the easiest way to foster a referral relationship is to be the one to make the first move. If you send business over first, you’ll be accomplishing several things. First, you’re letting the other person know you’re serious about developing a referral relationship. Second, you’re getting in front of them without having to make a “solicitation” phone call. You have also presented yourself with a great opportunity to make the introductory call for the client you’re sending over, or just follow up to see how things went.
Be careful of missing the forest for the trees. You may have a relationship with someone who isn’t sending you clients directly, but is introducing you to people who are a good source of business. Don’t discount this relationship or neglect fostering it just because the goal isn’t directly being met.
Remember there are several ways of developing the referral relationship, and the best way to make sure it’s successful is being a leader in setting the tone instead of waiting for business to walk through your door.