Let’s start with the worst way to give a referral. I’ll be using examples of what you say when giving a referral, because the direct quote is the best way to learn here.
You meet somebody and find out that they’re a dentist who specializes in fixing broken teeth. You say, “I know a guy who could use your services. He has terrible teeth. Here’s his phone number, tell him I told you to call.”
What’s wrong with that? They just gave you something only slightly better than a cold call. This is a lot like saying “I made a sandwich for lunch. It’s got anchovies and peanut butter, and I don’t need it. Do you want it?” Okay, you didn’t have to make your own sandwich… but still, this isn’t helping so much. Imagine now that you’re the dentist, calling someone and saying “Hi, Joe told me to call you. I hear you have terrible teeth. Want some help?” Well, that’s a turnoff, to say the least. It’s not great for the dentist, and probably not so good for Joe’s reputation, either! If you give referrals like this, nobody will be happy, and you won’t be helping yourself, either.
Slightly Better: “I’ve just texted my friend and told them they should meet with you. I told them you’re awesome, gave them your number, and they might call you.” This gives you nothing proactive you can do. It’s word of mouth, but it isn’t a strong referral.
Much Better: “I’ve called my friend and told them you could really help. They asked for your number, and I gave it to them, but then I also asked if they’d be okay with you calling them. They said yes, and can you call tomorrow at six? They’re expecting your call.”
This might be good enough for someone with a leaky roof or faucet who needs a competent contractor, but not quite good enough if you’re giving a referral for an industry where the product or service being sold is more personal and requires higher trust: financial planners, life coaches, mental health counselors… people who provide services that require keeping some measure of confidentiality. You can do better when giving referrals for people like that.
Best practice: “I’ve just called my friend and arranged for the three of us to meet next Tuesday for lunch. I’ll introduce my friend to you, share how much you helped me, and you can ask my friend if they have any questions about how you do your thing. I’ll bring some of my famous anchovy-and-peanut butter sandwiches.”
Okay, I admit, this last one could be a bit better… if they offer to buy you lunch. But I would eat someone’s anchovy and peanut butter sandwiches any day for a referral this intentional. [When you get to lunch, spend less time on HOW you do your thing, making sure to share WHY you do it. What do you love about your clients and the results they get?]
What are the keys? The more involved in the introduction you can get, the more likely it will be that you will help someone earn a new client or customer. By the way, if you do this for others, you’ll be teaching them how to do it for you. What goes around will come around.