03/24/2015 05:37 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Is the Correct Referral Etiquette?


Have you ever wondered what happened to a referral you gave to someone? Was it useful to them or not? It's probably something we have all done, taken the lead and thought no more about it. But wouldn't you feel a little annoyed at not knowing the outcome? You took the time and forethought to hand them a lead in the first place, and they can't be bothered to update you. Maybe that's the last time you'll refer anyone -- period.

I received a referral this week from an acquaintance because his client wanted something he didn't have in-depth knowledge on, but he knew I did. That was great news for me as the receiver of the referral -- an easy piece of business for me, and I was grateful.

On the flip side, I have heard many stories of referrals going wrong. Having your own client tell you about the lousy work that someone you referred did for them is embarrassing and enough to make you not bother in the future.

So what should happen now? What is referral etiquette and does it even matter? Well, I think it definitely matters -- certainly to the person giving the referral and risking an awful lot.

1. Make contact.

Firstly, make timely contact with the referral. While this may be stating the obvious, it doesn't happen all the time. When someone gives you a lead, that lead is about as hot as it gets. The referral is ready to receive your call and find out more because they want what you are offering if you can nail the details right.

2. Circle back.

Let your referrer know that you have contacted the lead and organised the next steps. This not only lets your referrer know you have made contact, but what is happening next. Why is it important? Because the referral is more than likely a client of theirs, and if you screw it up it reflects badly back on them. They are trusting you in more ways than you can imagine.

3. Seal the deal.

Referrals are generally regarded as easy business because by the very nature of them, they come with a glowing reference about you at a time when they want what you're offering. When you have sealed the deal, drop a note back to your referrer to say thanks, and to let them know the outcome so far. Again, you are building up trust as you go with your referrer, who is now breathing a bit easier.

4. Do the best job.

If you want more referrals and, more importantly, to keep your relationship with your referrer, go out of your way to do the best job. It's their brand on the line here as well as your own. Until they know you really looked after their client, they are unlikely to send you anymore leads.

5. Reward with thanks.

People don't give referrals just to get rewards like bottles of wine, but it's a nice thing to do to say thanks. The deal you did with their client was undoubtedly worth a whole lot more to you and it's just good manners to acknowledge their effort.

So much of our business life is about building relationships with others and gaining their trust. It takes a long time to do but only a moment to break. Being known for always doing the best job you can and being the person with impeccable manners will ensure you get even more referrals.

Do you follow a process when you get a referral to ensure it works for everyone involved?