I live in a historic, well really just old, house. It was built in 1920 and challenges us weekly with quirky things that are the result of many different people living and working on this house over the years. This summer I decided that I wanted to paint the exterior of my abode, so I spent some time with my husband picking out colors and trying them on for size. We eventually landed on a combo that we thought served our Craftsman-style home well.
Good prep work is required to make sure the paint, or a referral, will stick.
With the colors all picked out, I was ready to paint. Just hand me a brush!
But, like the networking lessons I have learned in BNI, I quickly realized that a little prep work would go a long way toward making my paint stick. Like prepping for painting, prepping a referral can make all the difference:
- Tools: Now is the time, before you start any actual work, to assemble all the tools you may need to do the work, such as business cards or brochures.
- Clean: Do a little ‘rolodex” housekeeping and make sure you have the most accurate and up-to-date info on anyone you plan on referring.
- Fill: Make sure that any possible referral holes are filled by having a one-to-one meeting with your fellow BNI member before you refer them.
- Sand: Knock off any rough edges or sticky spots during the meeting. Ask them to educate you on how to best refer them. For example some businesses may have set rates that they want you to share, while others simply want a warm introduction.
After making the referral (or painting), it simply makes sense to go back and check your work. Were there any areas missed? Does something need to be gone over again? Making sure to check in with both parties is a sure-fire way to make your referral stick.
The other day I bought an avocado at the store. I carefully selected one that looked fairly ripe as I was planning to eat it soon. A few days later I cut that avocado open for dinner confident that it would be perfect with our Mexican dinner.
Alas, it was still hard inside, even though from the outside it looked fully ripe. I went ahead and served half of it with our meal, but it was very unsatisfying and didn’t have the creamy taste or texture that we love.
Even if they look ripe on the outside, sometimes they aren’t.
As I thought about it, I realized it was a lot like making a good referral. We oh so carefully select the exact right person to refer. Then, when the time is ripe, we pass along the name, the phone number and some info about the situation to our referral partner. Because we have taken a little extra time and attention, we assume that the referral is perfect.
But sometimes, like my avocado, looks are deceiving and more time is required to fully ripen the referral. What can we do to help serve up ripe referrals every time?
- Make sure you understand the specific needs of the referee. Use basic interview skills to solicit their exact needs. What? Where? and Why? questions are your best friends.
- Know the scope of your referral partner’s services or products. One-to-ones and GAINS profiles can make all the difference here.
- Perform the referral introduction in person if at all possible. Not only does that allow you to add credibility to your referral, it also gives you a chance to start the new referral relationship off on the right foot. If you can’t do it in person, then perform introductions over the phone then send an email to both parties with contact info included.
- Lastly, follow-up with both parties within a week of giving the referral. This is your chance to ensure that your referral is ripe and tasty for everyone involved.
Follow these four simple tips for the ripest referrals possible and start serving up results!