A referral partner is a business associate in a complementary field, who recommends your company and its services. The best referral relationships are reciprocal; in other words, you would also recommend their company and services to your clients and prospects.
For example, the wonderful graphic artist needs an excellent printer to expertly reproduce their designs. And a printer needs a reliable graphic artist who produces beautiful work and understands file formats. It’s a perfect match!
What makes a fabulous referral partner?
A balanced referral partnership is The Mutual Admiration Society at it’s best. Enthusiastic endorsements; referrals regularly returned in kind. You love each other’s work, and your trust each other with your reputations.
In an ideal world, kismet, like a cosmic match-maker, hooks you up. It’s fated! It’ll last until you both retire! Other times, as with dating, you’re going to have to put some work into finding your Fabulous Referral Partner (FRP). Damn it, there’s no app for that. Yet…
How do I find a fabulous referral partner?
The dating parallel continues here. Make a list of what you’re looking for as an ideal, and what’s unacceptable. Let your friends know your “turn-ons and turn-offs” and ask if they know a good match. Once you find an FRP that you’re interested in, check out their online presence.
Next, face your fears. Ask them to lunch. Be brave and meet face to face to see if YOU like them. Make sure they are unabashedly “into you”!
Networking events are like speed dating; a great way to get experience with putting yourself out there, prepping your presence, having an Elevator Speech, asking for business cards and following up. It’s an introduction service. It’s also a great way to see how people make you feel.
Your local Chamber of Commerce hosts mixers, and they also have a directory with which you can find a list of potential referral partners.
There are also formal business networking groups, which come with pros and cons. Imagine speed dating but where you are essentially required to dig someone in the group.
People appreciate being treated to meals in exchange for their time, energy and attention. Like it or not, you’re in sales. Eek! Don’t worry, you have an awesome product (your company!)! The mindset to adopt is that you come bearing helpful solutions for their business.
As with dating, don’t make assumptions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t be afraid of their responses. Vet them to see if they have the same level of service, integrity, and care for their clients as you have of yours.
Here are some questions you’ll want to consider and ask of a potential FRP.
- Are your target clients already coming to them and/or is there a plan in place to increase business from said clients?
- Do they currently have someone they refer to? (Are they seeing other people (hee)?) What do they like about that person’s business? Is there a need their clients have that is yet to be filled?
- Are they aware of your work? More importantly, are they a fan? You want them to be as “into you” as you are “into them”.
- Do they understand what makes you different than your competition?
- Do they have any reservations about referring to you?
Because what you’re in is sales, you’re going to need to stay in regular touch. You’ll be showing appreciation in all the ways salespeople do. Think thank you notes, occasional lunches, shout outs on social media, and gifts of appreciation for all the business they’ve been sending you.
As with dating, you’re not marrying them. If it’s not working, you’ve learned something and you move on. You’ll make changes to your “list”, and – with your chin up — you’ll go find someone who is as fab as YOU!