February 13, 2011

Failed Referrals – What Do They Mean in Networking Relationships?

In the past we have discussed passing referrals to our networking partners and what makes a great referral.  Our objective is that 100% of our new business comes from referrals.  After all who really likes to cold call for new business?

Certainly we should all pass referrals to our partners which we believe that are appropriate ones, those which will bring a mutually rewarding relationship to each of the parties concerned.  Of course, both of the parties of the referral should be our networking partners.  But what happens when the referral does not result in a mutually rewarding conclusion?

As much as we try to pass “qualified” referrals to our networking partners, what happens when one goes wrong?  The two parties just cannot seem to make the referral work for some reason that we did not anticipate when we made the referral; is that our fault and should we try to “fix” the situation?

So when did we ever believe that referrals were “certain to work”; when did we all become the “all-knowing” experts on our partners’ business or needs?  There is no “for sure” in life, just as there is none in business.  There are going to be times when we miss the mark with our own business prospecting, in which we should be the expert, and there are going to be times when we also fail with a referral.

We try to “know” our networking partners’ businesses or needs.  However, we are not the “experts” in their businesses or needs.  We are not in the position to “sell” their products or services for them or to “buy” products or services for them.  Only they “know” what their business really is or provides, and only they “know” what they need.

We should be able to receive feedback from our networking partners after we provide a referral, and we should receive it from both parties in the referral.  Hopefully, this feedback includes a positive report on the referral; however, sometimes the feedback includes a negative report.  Maybe the referral is not ever going to end in positive results.

Does a negative result mean that you failed in your part of the referral process?  Maybe not, but maybe you misunderstood the parties’ mutual attraction.  No harm, this should not be seen as a complete failure on your part.  If you honestly tried to help two parties and failed, you have learned for the future.  Maybe the two parties also learned how to better educate you and others about their business or needs.

Failure in referrals should be seen just as failure is seen in any other endeavor, as a learning experience.  Anyone who does not fail does not attempt to do anything.  Those who fail and do not learn from the failure are doomed to fail for good.  Just learn and do better in the future.  Should the failure result in a damaged relationship with your networking partners?

If you did your homework and made the referral believing that you honestly believed that the referral was mutually beneficial to both parties, then you have nothing to regret.  As we said before, it is not your function to “close the deal” when the two parties get together.  Do not stop referring others; learn, and move on.

Appreciation marketing teaches us that we must thank those who provide referrals to us.  The referring party is not responsible for “closing the deal”; we are the ones who must complete the process.  If someone passes you a valid referral which does not result in a positive outcome to you, thank the person, provide them feedback that may help both of you in the future, and move on to more referrals.  Be glad you have such a partner in your network.

Remember that your comments are always welcome, and thank those of you who leave them.  I also appreciate your calls, 360-314-8691, and emails, Jim@SOC4Now.com.  Please let me hear from you so we can build a networking relationship and help each other.


  1. Excellent suggestion....give the person referring you feedback. It doesn't happen often--so once again here is a way for you stand out from others. Even better, put the feedback in handwritten note--it will make an even bigger impact.

  2. Jim,
    You mentioned a lot of good thoughts and variations to what could happen.
    Communication is the key!

    We all can improve on that. Sometimes we think we made our point, only to find out they missed it, or we didn't word it correctly.

    Yes, I agree we must thank others for taking time out of their schedule to check out what we have.

    good days to you!

  3. Your information is as always insightful and concise. I feel lucky to have crossed paths with you! Christine Harper