Imagine a gay, single man, open to finding a relationship. Then imagine he has a well-meaning friend who says ‘I must introduce you to John – he’s gay too.’
Nothing more. Nothing about John’s interests, where John lives, what John does for a living, what John looks like. Just the assumption that two gay men are bound to strike up a relationship. The very blindest of blind dates and very unlikely to be successful.
That is exactly what happened to me recently, and it got me thinking about the equivalent in networking referrals – the ‘blind referral’.
A blind referral is one where there’s been no background work done, no attempt to determine whether the two parties might be compatible and no accompanying information. It’s very unlikely to be successful for either side, and can end up damaging your reputation as well.
Networking is not just a question of making referrals – it’s about quality referrals. The way that you refer can make or break the business relationship you are trying to create.
So, how do you make sure that you’re not like my well-meaning but uninformed friend, and that your referrals lead to successful new connections? Here’s my top five tips for making quality referrals
Pan for gold
You can’t spot a ‘gold’ referral for someone unless you know what it looks like. You need to know what the other person is – and just as importantly isn’t – looking for. What makes a gold referral for them. This is what Get Fresh catch ups are for – use them to ask about what the other person is looking for in their ideal referral, otherwise you’re never going to find it.
Not out of the blue
If you’re going to make a referral, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to either party. Talk to both of them before formally making the introduction. Let them know you are thinking of making an introduction to someone you think would be a good connection for them, and why. Give the person you are referring to an opportunity to confirm whether this really is a match made in heaven.
Putting things into context
A referral is not just a question of handing over a phone number. Contact details with no context is a lead, not a referral. A referral is ‘warm’, it is made by someone (you), who knows both parties and has put thought into whether to make the introduction. A good referral gives some context – telling each person a bit about the other. Their business, how they help their clients, why you think they’re great and why you’re making the introduction. A referral is a sales pitch for the person you are referring to – that’s what makes it a warm referral and not a cool lead.
Use the Fresh tools
Fresh makes it really simple for you to refer – go to the Members’ Directory on the website, and you’ll find a description of every member’s business and services, so you can use their own words when you are referring them. You’ll also see a ‘Refer [name] button, which will open up a skeleton referral email. You literally just fill in the blanks – we couldn’t make it any easier.
Walk the talk
Before making a referral, a good question to ask yourself ‘Would I use this person myself?’. That doesn’t mean that you have to have actually used them but would you use them if you needed what they offer? If you can answer yes, then it’s a solid referral. Great referrals are based on ‘know, like, trust’. That’s why we have a strict interview process at Fresh – so that every member is someone who is aligned with our approach to networking. Good referrals are authentic referrals – if you truly believe that the person you are referring offers a great service, it will be easy to find the words to refer them. And don’t forget that you put your own reputation on the line when you make a referral, so protect it by only referring when you can do so with genuine enthusiasm.
Funnily enough, I didn’t take up the offer to be introduced to John. Your fellow Freshies don’t want blind referrals any more than I wanted a completely blind date. So do use my tips and make sure that your referrals lead to a happily ever after.