How to Review Your Referral Partners

When to move on in a referral relationship is a question that comes up often and I thought today was a good day to chat about it. In the past week alone I have had 3 clients make the decision to ‘move on’ from a potential partner or new relationship without really giving it a fair chance. I have hopefully talked them out of moving on, but want to open up this conversation with my ‘tribe’ on Linked In.

Let’s start with why you would fire a referral partner:

·        Misrepresentation of their capabilities to deliver. There is no fake it til you make it with referral relationships. Your partners put their reputation at stake, it’s a risk that shouldn’t be rewarded with you practicing with a new marketpotentially at their expense. If you are taking a proven concept to a similar client that you have multitudes of experience with, that’s a different story. Be clear on what you can do and make sure you are overdelivering and underpromising with all introductions, otherwise, expect to get a pink slip from your partners.

·        Making bad introductions. Referral relationships invest their valuable time with you educating you on who they serve, what a good client looks like and even more importantly who’s not a fit. Time is precious and if you make introductions to ‘spiders’ and waste your partner’s time you deserve to go back to cold calling.

·        Bad Behavior. Sometimes people behave badly and you can’t afford to have your reputation tied to someone who doesn’t have the ethical standards to represent you or your brand, which is at stake with every introduction you make.

·        Taking without giving. Partnerships are a 2 way street. I do not expect equal introductions or referrals from a partner, but I do expect an equal effort. This can be measured pretty objectively, are you investing time with partners making it clear who you want to be referred to and why? Do they invest time with you? Then that investment should have a return in referrals to the right person at the right time for the right reason. If you are making all the introductions and they are closing business and the partner has done nothing to introduce you, it’s time for a tough conversation. Now, I’m not giving you permission to kick them to the curb without a conversation. You don’t get off that easy. One of the biggest successes I have seen a client experience was after they had the conversation – ‘Is this as good as it gets’ with a referral partner.

Many people hate conflict. It’s how we’re wired. We like to be nice, in spite of a lot of the rhetoric you see on social media. I think we find it easier to move on from a potential relationship rather than invest the effort in making it better, but this is short sighted and will guarantee you a lot of superficial relationships that move on from you when something better comes along as well!

I’m not suggesting you pick a fight with your partner, I am suggesting you do periodic performance reviews, especially with a new relationship. This is a 180 degree review, you are inviting your partner to evaluate your performance as much as you are evaluating them. A few suggestions on topics to evaluate…

1.      Clarity on market – do your partners know who you want to meet?

2.      Time spent nurturing the relationship- do you have a recurring event scheduled? Either monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly? Your business evolves and your partners had better be along for the ride or risk being left behind.

3.      Understanding of what you do to make a great introduction- Can they share your story? I don’t mean your personal story, but examples of clients you have helped through challenging situations.

4.      Marketing investment – do they actually market? Are they looking to build their business? If they’re not hunting for themselves, what makes you think they’ll hunt for you? Do you have opportunities to cross market?

5.      Top of mind – do you hear from them? Either periodic emails, text messages, or phone calls need to be happening. And don’t think connecting on Linked In or Facebook and liking their posts qualifies. 1-1 conversations build relationships.

6.      Introductions happening – does your partner invest equal ‘influence’ in introducing you? If you are setting a lunch meeting, attending, facilitating the conversation with a great prospect and shepherding the opportunity along to a closed deal and your partner sends you a name and number to cold call (pretty much) then you’re not on the same page with introductions.

Now the tough part with all of this is you have to demonstrate how it’s done. So before you go start picking on your partner’s effort, you have to look in the mirror first. Are you a great partner? Are you following through on great introductions? Not everyone gets it right, we’re all human. We make mistakes. I’m the first one to stand up and raise my hand and say ‘I’m flawed’ but I will also let you know I make an effort every day to be a better human than I was the day before. And I work because of the work product I perform, not just to have a job. And that’s an important quality in your partners.

So when you find it, invest the effort, tough conversations, problem solving to make a long standing and highly productive partnership. You will quickly find your best partners are those who are prepared to roll up their sleeves and get better, right along with you.

If you’d like a copy of a referral partner performance review worksheet, email me at with the subject line Performance Review. And if you’d like more information on how Productive Prospecting methods can help you ignite your prospecting effort, drop me a line and we’ll chat.

Thanks for taking time to stop by today and I wish you Good Selling!