The Season of Giving... All Year Long
By Andy Kocemba
Exchanging gifts is common this time of year. Chances are you have a list of all the people for whom you need to make or buy a gift. If you are like me, most of this gift giving comes from a place of genuine appreciation for the recipient, but there are some instances where the exchange feels like an obligation.
Business can feel like that too, especially when it comes to "referral partners," a term I don't like. It implies that somehow, each time a person passes along a referral, another, of equal size and value, should be passed back in due time. That feels like exchanging equal value gift cards with a distant cousin at Christmas -- not too genuine.
It doesn't have to work that way. I recently had a chance to meet in-person with someone I had been referring business to over the last couple of years. We connected well, and by the end of the meeting, he told me he felt bad that he didn’t have business to refer to me. I genuinely told him that it was fine, and it was simply about meeting the customer’s needs. This holiday season, I encourage you to take this “Season of Giving” mindset and apply it to your business all year long. Here’s how:
- Respect the Customer Journey: Your business is about the customer's journey, not yours. While you do a good job and make money at it, your business exists at a certain point along their journey. They are coming from something, going somewhere, and they need what you provide. If someone needs something you don’t provide, connect them with someone who can. It is in your customer’s best interest for you to do what you are best at, and to refer them to other providers to meet their other needs. Most often, you will find you refer business “forward”, and accept referrals from “behind”, relative to the customers journey. This is where I see the idea of “referral partners” fall apart. Often, you will receive a referral once a customer has grown beyond one company. They will work with you for a while, until they progress past you too.
- Give Referrals: Take joy in connecting your customers (or those you come across who don’t need your services) with others who can meet their needs. Don’t expect anything in return. This is about helping that person make progress along their journey.
- Take Referrals: Someone is sending you a referral because a customer needs your service, not because that company wants to be your friend, and not because they expect a referral in return. Remember, this is all about helping the customer, so freely accept the referral and help this person. You often won’t have a referral to send back, so simply say thanks.
Nice people finish first, it just might take a while to see the full results. If helping your customers along their journey, wherever it might lead, becomes your top priority, you will see your business grow upon a solid foundation.
Remember, business is fundamentally about serving and providing, not fattening your bottom line.
- Referrals should be about meeting customer needs, even if you won't be involved. Take joy in helping them make connections.
- Your business is about the customer journey. Focus on what they need at the point they're at.
- Someone is sending you a referral because a customer needs your service, not because they expect one in return.