Meet Judy. During the past 18 months, she’s gone from being a wealth advisor, to a marketing consultant, to a life coach. When asked about the kind of clients she is looking to attract, Judy’s responses are a rambling of generic statements, industry buzzwords and ethereal reflections. Judy’s ambiguous declarations and scattered delivery would make it challenging for anyone to refer her business.
At a recent networking event, I was surprised to hear two other professional, who I held in high regard, recommend Judy’s services. One praised her for providing him with clarity on a personal issue and another for navigating him through a complex business dilemma.
At first, I wondered whether or not we were all referring to the same Judy? Then I started to question my impressions of those singing her praises. Were my eyes and ears playing tricks on me? How could three professionals have such disparate opinions of the same individual? After the meeting, and unsolicited, another professional attending the event remarked to me how unexpected he also found the feedback on Judy.
Because my impressions of her weren’t positive, I never sought Judy’s services. Either she provides value but needs to work on her pitch, or those who have recommended Judy have officially tainted their own personal brands by endorsing her.
Whether a business contact solicits the name of a CPA to handle their taxes, or a friend asks you to suggest a criminal attorney who can make their kid’s DUI disappear, who and how you make a recommendation will directly reflect on your personal brand.
If the referral turns out positive, our personal brand is enhanced as we have positioned ourselves as well connected and resourceful. If the referral flounders, others may question our judgment. The same applies to social media sites, like LinkedIn, that allow you to post recommendations—endorsement–to a contact’s profile.
When making a recommendation, consider the following:
Relevance. Avoid the practice of referring just for the sake of giving referrals.
Consider the client. For any given need, you probably know several professionals who are adequately qualified to fulfill it. In addition to one’s skill set, consider other qualities like personality, responsiveness, and cost effectiveness.
Provide at least two, preferably three options. This practice demonstrates you are well connected; it also mitigates any perception of responsibility for the client’s choice.
Initiate an introduction. Whether over email or in person, introduce the two parties to each other by suggesting the reason(s) for the match.
Refer your clients or best referral sources when possible. Assuming it’s a proper match, referring those who impact your business will demonstrate your appreciation and further develop the relationship.
When in doubt, don’t refer. No referral is better than one that may jeopardize your reputation. Politely decline by stating that you don’t have anyone in your network whom you believe could handle their unique situation.
Remember, when you pass on someone’s name, ensure they are as proficient at what they do as you are at what you do.