Friday, December 18, 2009



Customers Are Not Your Best Source of Referrals

by Ivan Misner

If you're like most people, you may think your best source of referrals is your customer base. The reason people sometimes fall into this delusion is that they've been trained to believe it and have never pursued any other source of referrals. The only referrals they've ever received are from customers.

Don't get me wrong: Customers and clients can be a good source of referrals; we know that. However, the best sources in the long run are likely to be the people you refer business to. When you help another businessperson build his or her business, you're cultivating a long-term relationship with someone who's motivated to return the favor by bringing business to you, who's sharing your target market, and who will work systematically with you for mutual benefit.

With a well-developed referral network, you can realize more good referrals from one or two professional referral sources than from all your customers combined. Why? Because these professionals are better salespeople than your clients and they spend more time in contact with your target market. They know how to sell to your client base. They talk your talk. If you've done your job of educating and training them to refer business to you, they can communicate your value better to their contacts.

There's also a built-in problem with customers. If you're spending part of your time with a customer trying to get referrals, you're generating a conflict of interest. Instead of devoting all your time and attention to the customer's needs, you're diverting part of that effort toward your own self-interest. Customers may sense that they're not getting full value, and they may be right. You may be polluting customer service time with "gimme business" time.

Yes, you can expect to get referrals from a happy customer, but you'd better make darn sure the customer is indeed happy. This means keeping your attention, and your motivations, focused on the customer's needs when that is the purpose of the visit or call. However, there's nothing wrong with asking for another appointment specifically so you and your client can discuss how you can help each other.

Called the father of modern networking by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI, the world's largest business networking organization. His latest book, The 29% Solution, can be viewed at Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute, an international referral training company with operations around the world. He can be reached at

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