If you interact with your clients, customers, referral sources, and contacts with a referral mind-set, show them that you are a giver, help others, and continually and strategically give referrals, you’re modeling the behavior you want others to exhibit toward you. By itself, however, that’s not enough to train them to give you referrals.
Contacts who are not involved in your strong-contact network may not be aware of what is involved in the kind of true referral networking that you are conducting. Often you will have to coach them as you go, letting them know exactly what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what they may expect from your efforts.
Let’s say you’ve heard about a colleague whose stolen credit cards have been used to run up some big charges: “Stephanie, I’ve been talking with a colleague about your identity-theft problem and have arranged for him to send you a number of internet links that will help you quickly straighten out your credit problems. I also know a lawyer who specializes in this field. Would you like for me to contact him for you? I hope you’ll keep me updated on your progress, and let me know if there’s any other way I can help.”
Similarly, if you’re passing a referral to an untrained but potentially valuable referral partner, let him know exactly what you’re doing and suggest ways he can reciprocate: “Jim, I know a specialist who provides the exact services you say you need. I’ve known him for fifteen years and have used him many times. He’s good, and he’s trustworthy. May I ask him to call you? And by the way, if you know a general contractor who constructs steel-frame buildings in the Valley and can use the new kind of fasteners I sell, would you please consider giving me a referral?”
By talking openly about what you’re doing, you’re not only modeling the behavior you want from your potential referral partner, you’re getting him to think about it, which is an essential part of learning. You’re also asking him to practice it in a way that will help him repeat the behavior later. It’s not a guarantee that he will reciprocate, but it makes it more likely that he will get the idea and respond in kind–at first, out of simple gratitude; later, out of the realization that a continuing referral relationship is good business for both of you.
One of the best ways to train a referral source is to go to a professional referral-training seminar and take your source with you. This way, you will both be trained by an expert and will be speaking the same language–the language of referrals.
If you have an additional tactic for training referral sources to generate referrals for you, I’d love to hear it. Please share it in the comment forum below. Thanks!