I was asked by a customer to help mop up the aftermath after a bad referral experience with a business associate.
My customer re-connected through social media with an old acquaintance who provides complementary services and was keen to explore business opportunities.
Through their discussions they discovered they had many things in common and very quickly a friendship was formed. They met up regularly, enjoyed lively discussions over boozy lunches and attend networking events together. Soon, an opportunity presented itself for business collaboration with one of my customer’s existing clients.
It was a perfect referral, they both attended the meeting, which was relaxed and informal and they all swapped business cards; However, at the end of the meeting it was clear there were no immediate opportunities for collaboration but they agreed to possibly work together in the future.
So you can imagine my customer’s surprise when they found out from the associate that a deal had been done with the client. This is where it gets a bit complicated: the associate made direct contact with my customer’s client, introduced another organisation and a substantial deal was done. As a result, the associate was expecting a generous commission and was now in discussions about other services similar to those my customer offered. What happened to my customer? They were completely cut out of the deal and it was embarrassing all around.
I am in awe of my customer – a successful, personable and social individual. They didn’t want this experience to get in the way or cloud their judgement of others, so asked if I could help with implementing some kind of policy. They did not want this experience to stop the team networking, getting and giving referrals, but they wanted some best practice, advice and guidelines to help in the future.
I’ve been carrying out some research and this is what my conclusions:
- You need to be ‘like-minded’ with your associate and have the same values and business ethics.
- Be pro-active in the process, follow up on how meetings go or attend meetings yourself.
- Find out as much as you can about the associate, their product or service. Make sure they are genuine and trustworthy; take some time to get to know them – it is your reputation too.
- If somebody gives you a referral, show your gratitude, even if it is just a thank you note or an email.
- You need to communicate clearly what it is that you do – it is amazing how messages can be diluted three conversations along. Keep your network updated with your products, services be transparent about your costs – if you charge for pre-work consultancy, be upfront about it.
- Use your gut instinct. If you’ve been asked for a referral or an introduction to one of your customers and this makes you feel uncomfortable, then don’t give one and be honest with your reasons.
- Once you’ve received a great referral, or new business opportunity, go out of your way to reciprocate. Find out as much as you can about the person, the type of work they do and introduce them to somebody you know.
Feel free to get in touch, I am happy to provide a free initial consultation. email – firstname.lastname@example.org