Doesn’t matter what business you’re in. Consulting, real estate, health care, whatever…it’s a good bet you love referrals. When people show up ready to say “yes” to you—what’s not to like?

Here’s how career coach Catherine Altman Morgan puts it: “Referrals are critical for solo professionals. They can make or break your business.” 

 It’s been a referral flurry for me lately.

  • A friend thanked me for turning her on to a fantastic photographer.
  • I’m coaching a woman for an important presentation; she got my name from a long-ago client.
  • I met with another professional who isn’t my client yet. She’s looking for a writer; I recommended one.
  • A friend from college suggested me when her colleague mentioned speaking as part of her professional improvement plan.
  • And (get this) my friend who reads Akashic Records told me how much she enjoyed doing a session for the CPA I sent her way. I know, an accountant and Akashic Records? I’m telling you, they paired up perfectly.

That got me thinking about how important referrals are to all of us. And, of course, how much I’d like to have even more of them. I bet you would too!

To get more, you gotta give more.

Some people hope for even-steven: I recommend you to a customer and you send me a client. Everybody comes out ahead.

It doesn’t usually work out quite so neatly, does it?  And it’s not necessarily that one of us is selfish or holding back.

Maybe I know dozens of people who need your service…sadly, you can’t think of a soul who should do a better job talking about their business.

Or I send you a client…but you already have a resource you suggest to would-be speakers. And it’s not me.

Could be, I think the world of your work, so it’s easy to recommend you. But you don’t have enough experience with me to be comfortable touting me as a speaker.

Or maybe making a referral just isn’t at the top of your to-do list right now. You’re busy with your own work. Way too busy to even be thinking about recommending somebody else.

Why should I offer a referral to someone like you? You’ve never sent business my way.

It helps to get away from quid pro quo.

I like to think about the Universe of Referrals.

This way, I can freely recommend that somebody call you, even though you’ve never referred anyone to me and possibly never will. I’m not worried a bit about that because I know that somebody else will send me a client.

And then yet another person will make a referral to the one who recommended me. And so it goes, like a daisy chain of business. That’s the Universe of Referrals at work.

Sometimes the Universe needs a jumpstart.

It happens that referrals show up unexpectedly. Like my college friend connecting me with her coworker—that came completely out of the blue.

And, we probably can’t create a flourishing business by waiting for new clients to just drop into our laps.

Trisha DahoBusiness strategist Trisha Daho: I get very clear on what I am looking for and ask for referrals from clients. I’m pretty soft about it, but direct.” 

Does asking directly for referrals sound like a challenge? It is for me. And as with so many things, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

It always helps to give before we expect to get.  Or at least to offer to give a referral in the future at the same time we’re asking someone to pass on our name.

And it’s useful to have a network of professionals who serve the same people you do, but in a different way. For me, that might be social media coaches, web designers, copy writers—anyone who provides a marketing vehicle other than speaking. My clients could well need their help, and vice versa.

Attitude makes a difference.

I focus on the fun of connecting people who seem like a good fit, professionally or personally. And on the delight I feel about being recommended myself.

Meka Hemmons croppedPhotographer Meka Hemmons has the right idea: “There was a time I felt intimidated and pressured by the idea that I’m “expected” to make referrals. I’ve turned that around to be grateful that part of my job is meeting fantastic people with excellent specialties, so talking people up has become more and more a natural inclination over the years.

I respect and aspire to those who mindfully give good referrals, not only because they help build others’ bizzes, but they earn trust as rich resources with a community mindset.”

And you?

Where do you stand on giving and getting of referrals? And when someone sends business your way, how do you respond?

Post a comment below—I plan to follow up with thoughts about thanking the people who support us that way.