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How to Handle a Referral: A Step-by-Step Guideline By Mike Krause


According to a Rain Today survey of over 200 businesses that hire service providers, referrals from trusted sources were the most important factor in a hiring decision. Ironically, handling referrals correctly is an often overlooked portion of business etiquette.

Always Remember This…
A referral is a vote of confidence. You have impressed someone (e.g. friend, colleague, client) enough with your services to the point where they feel compelled to recommend you to someone else. They are giving up their time to pass your name along in order to help you. This is an act of kindness and should always be thanked. Furthermore, the way you handle the referral will reflect on their reputation and yours.

Here is the 3-step process on how to handle referral communications and results:

1. Thank the person calling with the referral and ask, “How would you like to be involved in this process?”
2. Maintain open communications throughout the process.
3. Operate in the moment. This may sound a bit Zen-like but it simply means don’t wait too long to follow through with your actions.

A Referral Scenario: Act I
Your phone rings and it’s a familiar client.

Client: Hi, this is Jane from XYZ Company, how are you?

You: I’m great and you?

Client: Doing well. I have a referral for you. You’ve been a tremendous help so I was telling a colleague about you and they wanted me to give you their contact information.

You: Thank you Jane. I enjoyed working with your company and the highest compliment any client can give is a referral. I’ve also been passing your name around in the community. (Obviously, only say this if it’s true.) What’s their contact information?

Client: It’s Jim Great at 123 Main St., 123-4567. Here’s their email and you should know they’re in the medical industry.

You: Thank you. How did you leave it with Jim on how I would contact him?

Client: I said you’d call or email.

You: Perfect! I’ll call him right now. Let me ask you, how would you like to be involved in this process?

Client: Just send me an email and let me know how it works out.

You: You got it! Anything else I should know?

Client: Yes. He has 3 school age kids and is hard to reach after 3 p.m.

You: Thanks again, I’ll act on it (insert when you know you’ll follow through).

A Referral Scenario: Act II
Hang up and call or email Jim.

You: Hello, Jim Great? This is (your name) from (your business) and I was referred from Jane to speak with you regarding (your services).

Jim: Yes, I spoke with Jane and your name came up.

You: Yes, Jane is an excellent client and we had a great relationship. What do you need help with? But let me ask you, do you have a few free minutes to talk?

Jim: Well, we are having problems with (listen carefully)!

You: Would you like to set up a time to discuss your needs in more detail? I find it best to meet you at your location and learn about your business. How is next Tuesday at 2:00 p.m.?

Jim: Great. See you then.

Act III: The Grand Finale
So far so good? You’re not done yet. After hanging up with Jim you need to do the following:

• Send Jim an email confirming the face-to-face or phone meeting.
• Immediately call Jane back and update her. Thank her again, and ask her one more time how she’d like to be involved.
• Send Jane a thank you card. If it’s a big client consider including a small gift certificate for coffee or to a restaurant.

Follow this basic format for all your referrals and feel confident that your business and referral etiquette is as good as…gold? No. It’s as good as your improved bottom line and reputation which is even better.
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Mike Krause is the Chief Sales Architect and owner of Sales Sense Solutions where he helps business owners stay four steps ahead of the competition with stellar sales and high performance sales assessments, strategies and practical advice.

-What are your thoughts on the ideas above? Do you have a specific system for following up with referrals you would like to share? Use the comments below.

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