Customer Service, Goal Setting, Lead Generation, Management, Marketing, More Transactions, Networking, Sales

Referral Triangle


Sometimes we forget that there are three people involved in every referral.

  • First, there is the Referral Source, often a close friend or colleague, sometimes known as the trusted advisor, or maybe known as simply as the person who ‘has a guy’.
  • Second, there is the person receiving a referral, the Referree, or maybe referred to as simply the ‘lucky one’.
  • And last but not least there is the Referral, the person or business that is being referred based on a need or a perceived need by either the Referral Source or the Referral Target.

At any given point in time, we may take on a different role in the referral triangle.  Because our role can change under different circumstances it is important to understand the responsibilities that come with each of the roles involved.  Let’s look at how this can play out.

As the referral source, there is can be an overwhelming sense of responsibility for the quality of the individual or business that we are going to refer.  This feeling can have both positive and negative side effects.  On the positive side, by making sure that our referrals reflect our values and quality products or services, we are reinforcing our position as trusted advisor with quality connections.  On the negative side, the sense of responsibility can run deep and get in the way of making referrals or making connections because we strive for absolute certainty or believe that we must have used the service in order to refer business.  The lesson here is to be realistic and communicate your expectations to the person being referred in.

As the person receiving the referral, we need to listen carefully to the person giving the referral.  Do they provide any sort of endorsement or personal experience with the individual that reinforces the quality of the referral.  Do they refer one person for the job or do they give you a short list of possible candidates.  There is nothing wrong with either approach – the choice is up to you to make sure that you are comfortable engaging the right product or service.  Your responsibility in this relationship is provide constructive feedback to the person giving the referral.  By letting them know your experience they will know even better about the quality of the referral and what to expect when referring them.

And finally the referral.  As the person that is being referred in by someone else, you will be well served to take your queues from the person referring on timing, approach, and needs.  Your responsibility is to be responsive, to keep your source informed, to provide quality products and services, and most importantly thank your referral source.

YOUR CHALLENGE:   The next time you have the opportunity to provide a referral take into account all three members of the referral triangle, know your role and recognize what their needs may be.

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