How do you make introductions without losing friends?

One of the biggest challenges facing many people when they look at how they can refer other people is the fear that they will upset friends in the process.

At BrightTalk seminar on how to generate referrals, I was asked how to make introductions without losing friends. The full question read:

“I am trying to make referrals for someone I met in the insurance and financial planning industry. The difficulty is that to just give him names of friends and people I know might annoy them when he starts contacting them. But it is also difficult to ask questions to qualify the lead as it’s a bit personal in nature.”

There are two parts to the answer.

The first part lies in the definition of a referral. Many industries and sales teams focus on collecting names and numbers from people as part of their ‘referral strategy’. They are then happy to cold call those people and hopefully get sufficient names to get some sales. This is not referral generation, it is lead generation. They are completely different things.

Picture yourself sitting at your desk busy trying to meet a deadline. The phone rings. It is someone trying to sell you something. You are not expecting their call, you don’t necessarily recognise that you have a need for their services and, to be honest, you don’t have the time or inclination to find out. Whether or not they use the name of someone you know as part of their introduction.

Now imagine the same scene. Only this time you are expecting the call, you know what it is about and why it is relevant to you. However busy you are, you will be far more receptive to the caller and what they have to say. That is because they have been referred to you. In other words, a friend has recommended their services because they may be able to help you and you have agreed to accept their call.

So, the first part of my answer is that you shouldn’t give your friends’ names out as leads without their knowledge. You can almost guarantee that you will upset more than one person that way.

So, how do you overcome the problem of asking personal questions? The financial advisor you are trying to refer should be able to help you there. Ask him for examples of some of his typical clients and when they need his help. Not for the personal financial situation, but the general one. People look at their financial planning typically when something happens to change their situation. It may be that they are buying a first home, are expecting their first child, are planning to retire or a host of reasons.

The examples above are all situations you could easily recognise in your friends. If the financial planner can explain why people in that situation need his help and the difference he can make to them, it should be easy for you to convey that message in a way that your friends will want to speak with him; because he can make their life better or easier.

You don’t have to risk relationships when you pass referrals. In fact, if you do things the right way, that can make a positive impact on people, it helps you build relationships and make new friends.

28th June 10 — andylopata

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2 Responses to How do you make introductions without losing friends?

  1. Tom Power says:

    I note your concept of referrals and think it a wonderful way of doing business. However, the focus of your comments seems to be business oriented.
    I run a small charity and referrals are one of the recommended ways of spreading the word. We have tried to engage with our Trustees and Volunteers on more than one occasion to get them to consider this, but we cannot seem to get past the, “I might offend them” stage.
    What we appear to be doing wrong is in not being able to generate your idea of getting people to see that they would benefit from meeting us.
    Our charity is dedicated to building and equipping schools and equipping hospitals and clinics in East Africa.
    If you have any suggestions they would be appreciated.

  2. Andy Lopata says:

    Many thanks for your question Tom.

    It can be very difficult to ask people to refer or recommend a charity, even if the potential Champions are strong advocates themselves, for the very reason you mentioned above. We are inundated by requests to support charities, particularly since the growth of social networks and sites like Just Giving, that I’m sure many people suffer from ‘Charity Fatigue’.

    My suggestion would be to help your Champions refer you by giving them strong messages and requests to pass on to specific individuals. You mention ‘getting people to see that they would benefit’ so focus on what’s in it for them.

    For example, people get tax breaks from supporting charities, when are they most likely to be focused on those breaks? When they’ve just sold a business, perhaps or when they’ve received an inheritance? (I don’t know the details, so give me some leeway here, it’s the principle that’s important.) Ask specifically for people in those positions and focus on their needs at that time and the problems they might incur that the charity can help them solve.

    How about finding ‘win/wins’ where a company can benefit in additional PR or get a new route to market and support the charity at the same time.

    If you ask your Champions for general referrals to people who might support the charity, it can be uncomfortable for them. But if you ask for specific introductions for reasons that make sense to both parties, the referral becomes much easier to make.

    I hope that has given you some ideas that might be useful.

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