The key to forming and maintaining referral partnerships.

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The importance of referral partnerships(Image Source: The Trent)

Forming referral partnerships is one of the most beneficial things you can do as an entrepreneur.

First off, entrepreneurship can often be a lonely proposition. Having someone in a similar situation who has your back is a huge relief! Second, being able to refer business back and forth benefits both parties. Who doesn’t enjoy some extra income without having to hustle for it yourself?

As an introvert who’s also shy, it can be challenging for me to just walk up to someone and start talking to them. Given both of these tendencies, if I can form beneficial referral partnerships, so can anyone!

There are two parts to this sort of partnership: forming it and maintaining it.

FORMING REFERRAL PARTNERSHIPS:

When it comes to forming a mutually beneficial partnership, there are three critical aspects: knowing, liking, and trusting. Without those core principles, the relationship isn’t going to work.

Depending on your comfort level, the knowing part can be either really easy or really hard. Initially, you’re going to be doing a lot of cold-calling (or, if you’re like me and hate phone technology, cold-emailing). Brainstorm a list of folks in or related to your industry, and reach out! When someone replies, set up a coffee date and get to know them. With each relationship you form, odds are greater that you’ll be able to get an introduction to someone else, eliminating that awkward cold-call technique.

Next up: liking. You will meet some people and it just won’t click. That’s okay. Sometimes, a referral partnership just isn’t in the works. Listen to your gut, but obviously don’t burn any bridges. There’s no need for a proclamation of, “I do not like you and therefore will not refer business!”

And the most important one: trust. This bad boy takes time, and for the first couple of referrals you send this person’s way, you’re going to initially have to rely on your own intuition. Realize, though, that they are doing the same thing with you, so make sure you knock that business out of the park.

MAINTAINING REFERRAL PARTNERSHIPS:

Now that you’ve formed these partnerships, you have to maintain them!

Set aside some time each week to reach out to one or two of your colleagues, rotating through your list of contacts. Send thank you notes when someone sends a client your way. There’s absolutely no point going to all the trouble to build these relationships if you just let them wither and die.

This last point may seem counter-intuitive, but do not be afraid to partner with people who do what you do.

As an event planner, I make a point to meet with other event planners. If I’m already booked on a particular day, it’s great to be able to refer business to someone I know, like, and trust. Plus, not every client is “my” client. If someone contacted me with a “This is my budget - do it your way” request, I’d refer them to another event planner, since we aren’t each others people.

And now, your action step: Figure out one person to contact and do that today. Do it again tomorrow. And keep doing it until you’ve built up a solid foundation of partners. The more people you know, the more you’re going to get to know, and that benefits everyone involved.

heather herrington ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Heather Herrington is an event planner who used to be an emergency veterinarian, making her astoundingly adept in high-pressure situations. When she's not in the midst of planning an event, she's likely crafting, trapped with at least one of her pets (one dog, two cats) on her lap, trying to ski but being unable to stop, or dreaming about where she wants to travel next. Feel free to stalk her at Flawless Execution Events, on Facebook, or on Pinterest.