Effective networking is largely about passing QUALITY referrals. The quality isn’t so much about WHO is being referred to as the WORK put into it by the referrer. A less-than-quality referral is not simply an introduction that doesn’t pan out. If we’re turning it in as a referral to be counted (which we do not do with introductions, valuable as those are), we’re saying we put at least a minimum level of care into creating the referral. That minimum can be expressed in several standards:
1. Ready or Not: Are they interested in buying the product or service within the NEAR FUTURE? If it’s “always good to keep the contact info on hand for some day, in case I’m interested”, it’s an introduction, not a referral. It might turn into a referral some day. But meanwhile, the person is not indicating a readiness to do business. By all means, let’s make the introduction, but clarify for our referral partner that the introduction is not ready/interested right now; it’s mainly an exchange of basic information. Eventually, if they revisit it and say “I’m ready to consider this”, or if it ever becomes a source of business, turn that in as a referral! Not confusing introductions with referrals is a way of maintaining the quality of both, and keeping an accurate scoring of our performance as a team.
2. Able or Not: Have they said “Wow, I really want that service, but I don’t have any budget for it. Does that person work on spec (for free)?” That is NOT a (quality) referral, for the simple reason that it will not result in a business gain for our referral partner. Quality referrals do not involve working for “exposure”, to “build a portfolio”, or “out of good will”. Let’s be frank – we’re in this to make money. Part of our role in a networking group is vetting the people we refer at some minimal level, at least, as good matches. If we’re mainly handing off intros to people who aren’t able to exchange value, we’re abdicating our role in the process. That doesn’t mean we have to quote other people’s prices, but we do need to ensure that the person isn’t tightfisted to the point that they always look for the cheapest solution to any problem. No one who receives a referral like that considers it to be a “quality” referral.
3. Clear or Not: A quality referral is a referral for some specific product or service or to solve some specific problem or meet a specific need. It’s not a quality referral if the real estate attorney handles NYC, and we get them involved on a purchase in New Jersey. It could develop into a propitious introduction, but we handle it differently than a referral. If the owner of a graphic design studio is blowing an hour getting on the phone with someone who wants interior decorating, or the marketing photographer is fielding calls over dinner about weddings or bar mitzvahs, we haven’t done our part in the process. It’s on us to understand the business model of those we refer well enough to explain it to a potential candidate, so we don’t waste everyone’s time and resources. This is actually part of being each others’ sales partners – “getting it” well enough to present other people’s core value to potential clients, and getting confirmation that the service is something they want. If we don’t get it, it’s not on the other person, it’s on us to work at getting it, and then to find people who are an actual match.
We build trust in each other by giving quality referrals and doing quality work. Not every referral can be perfect, and not every introduction is or results in a referral; that’s normal. But when we’re putting a slip in someone’s hand and saying “this is a referral”, and we send that e-mail “Pierre meet Gina; Gina meet Pierre…” we’re saying we’ve done the work. The work is the vetting the referral that they are ready, able, and clear on what the referral is for.
Originally published at BNI 45 NYC.