The referral game

As you grow your business and make connections in the community, someone will ask you for a referral – an introduction to someone else. How you handle this referral could influence your business, your career and your success.

People like to be helpful. It is our human nature. In the today’s extremely busy world, people don’t always put much thought or effort in making quality introductions. When you provide quality introductions and referrals, you leave a lasting impression. You become trusted.

There are three basic methods of providing referrals to fellow businesspeople.

1) Card Shark
2) Remote Control
3) Three-Way

Card Shark

We have all seen individuals at networking events that hand you 5-6 cards, so that you can pass them out to friends. These people practice “fly by networking.” The goal is to flip as many cards as possible in the shortest amount of time.

This mentality carries over to providing referrals. I have been handed a card and told to call this person, as they might be able to help me. How do I know where my contact picked up the card? Off of the floor? Out of a restaurant fishbowl?

This method of making referrals is questionable. There is no thought given to the recommendation. In the end, everyone may resent you.

If you have used this method of referral, here is how you can salvage your effort. After you give out Betty’s card to Sam, you call Betty. You tell her that your friend Sam will be calling. At least then, Betty is expecting the call, and understands why she is taking her valuable time to talk to your friend. Then leave a message for Sam that Betty is expecting a call. Hopefully, Sam immediately calls her.

Remote Control

With the shrinkage of the globe and our expanding contacts, we are now being asked for remote introductions. These could be connections in other cities, states, or even other countries. In these cases, creating remote introductions is the only method acceptable to everyone. 

Remote controlled introductions may be necessary for traveling executives or for immediate introductions. With LinkedIn or other social media sites, your connections ask for introductions. Properly crafted remote introductions are valuable to everyone, but they take some time and thought.

The simplest remote introduction is email. You send an “E-introduction” to both parties. Explain what each person does and why he or she needs to help each other. Make sure you include complete contact information for everyone. Before I make these types of introductions, I communicate with both parties to make sure they want this connection. Then the connection becomes valuable for both parties.

A more powerful remote controlled introduction is a conference call. This takes time to set up, but the returns for everyone are enormous. Prior to the call, all parties need to know the purpose of the call and topic of discussion. The whole call may only take 15 minutes, but everyone knows how to move forward.

As a form of referrals, remote connections can work well, and be well received. After you have provided several of these, you find these introductions succeed with just a little thought and preparation. Please, just do not use a form letter to make the connection.


As a form of introduction, this is the most powerful and most memorable. You are introducing two people who would not have met. They will remember that you brought them together. 

The process is to talk with both parties, and state why you want to connect them. Then you take them to lunch or drinks. If you are introducing your customer to someone else, make it even more valuable by picking up your customer and driving them to the lunch. With the three-way face-to-face contacts, everyone learns more about each other. The conversation goes where you want and they realize the value you, a friend, bring to their life.

The main disadvantage of this referral technique is your commitment of time. You take time to set up the meeting, and then sacrifice your time for the meeting. The result to you is trust, which is extremely valuable. You expand the trust that these two people have in you. In the future, if you want to provide them with another introduction, they will jump at it. In addition, they usually go out of their way to help you with introductions.

When you provide an introduction of one person to another one, you are put in a position of trust. Others trust your judgment to help them. Are you going to take time to help your friends or business acquaintances, or are you going to provide fly-by introductions? Whatever you do, you will be remembered.

Categories: Company Perspectives