Sales and Sales Management Blog

May 22, 2009

The Four Pillars of a Successful Referal, Part 3: Your Client’s Relationship to the Referred Prospect


Most salespeople and business owners assume that all referrals are equal.  Even a great many trainers act like they’re all equal.  They’re not.  The strength of a referral depends more on the relationship between the client and the person they refer than on any other factor. 

Clients don’t just refer you to people who know them, respect them, and trust them.  It would be great if that were the case, but it isn’t.  Clients will refer you to people who are just casual acquaintances—and even to people who don’t respect them or don’t trust their judgment.

You can successfully convert any of these relationships into a great client.  But in order to so,

you must know EXACTLY

what the relationship between

your client and the referred prospect is.

When you get a referral you’re hoping to be able to set an appointment with the referred prospect based on the recommendation and endorsement of your client.  That’s the theory.  The reality is often very, very different.  Unless you know what the relationship between your client and the person they referred you to is, you don’t where you’re starting your connection with the referred prospect.

Prospects will initially judge you based on what they think of the person who referred you.  That means that your referral won’t necessarily have a positive impact on the prospect.  In some cases the prospect will have no pre-conceived opinion about you, while in other cases their pre-conceived opinion will be decidedly negative.

If your referred prospect trusts and respects your client, some of that trust and respect will automatically be imbued to you because someone they trust and respect endorsed you.  Consequently, you begin your relationship with that person from a position of strength.

If your referred prospect is simply a casual acquaintance of your client, they may have not developed an opinion about your client—good or bad.  In that situation you begin your relationship from a neutral position.  Although relatively rare, these neutral relationships do exist, and you will encounter these types of referrals.

Likewise, if your referred prospect distrusts or does not respect your client, in particular your client’s judgment and opinion, you begin your relationship with that prospect with some of that distrust and doubt imbued to you.  You begin the relationship from a decidedly negative position.

Your referred prospect will view YOU

the same way they view your Client–

Good, Bad, or Indifferent 

If you are not aware of the relationship between your client and the prospect—and in particular how the prospect views your client–you run a very real risk of blowing your opportunity to connect with the prospect. 

If your prospect trusts and respects your client, you will want to emphasize your relationship with the client and bring their name up often to reinforce the good feelings the prospect has regarding your client. 

On the other hand, if the prospect distrusts your client or doesn’t respect their judgment, simply use your client’s name for the introduction, and then seek to build your relationship with the prospect based on who you are, not on your relationship with your client.  Your client’s name gave you the opportunity to speak to the prospect; the rest is up to you.  Be aware, however, that the prospect will have reservations about you based on their opinion of who referred you.  It’s an uphill climb with a significantly lower potential for success, but one that can be made successfully if you’re aware of the obstacles in your path prior to making contact.

In those few instances where the prospect has virtually no opinion of your client, your client’s name should open the door.  Certainly you can continue to mention your client—they are neither an asset nor liability, but again, you’re faced with the task of building trust and respect based completely on your own, without any help from your client.

Next, the fourth pillar of a successful referral—How You Contact the Referred Prospect

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