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Tips on Vetting Referrals

checkIt’s perfectly understandable that when I searched this morning in google for ‘tips on vetting referrals’, it came back with ‘tips on getting referrals’. It assumed that I must be searching for that. Most people want to GET referrals, not VET them, and that’s a problem.

One way to get more referrals is to be better at vetting them. That means when someone asks if you know someone for such and such, really understand what they’re asking and be smart about referring just the right information (or person).

That’s work! Who wants to do work? That’s why ‘vetting’ sometimes seems like a lost art these days. And it’s why some people get asked more for referrals, and some people don’t. The thing is, the feedback loop is often long – but it comes back eventually – and it helps or hurts your reputation and ability to get be asked down the road. Word travels.

I take referrals very seriously – and so that means I spend a lot of time asking questions and vetting. Here are tips on vetting that you may find useful. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

1. Ask questions. When someone has a need or opportunity, ask a lot of questions. I learned this from my Grandfather – the what, why, who, where, how, etc – and the ‘5 why’s’ – to dig deep on what they really are asking for. ‘I need help hiring a marketing person’ often gets transformed into bits and pieces of specific needs when going through this process. So in fact you don’t want to hire a marketing person, you want more leads – and there are many ways to go about it! Such as, etc etc…

2. Be impartial. Don’t jump to the conclusion that you can help – either directly or indirectly. If the person needs help in your area of expertise, don’t immediately go to the fact that you personally can help. Keep it open on options. If they don’t select you, there must be a reason. If they select you, then they know that helping them is your highest priority.

3. Offer options. Always give more than one option on information or people. If the answer is obvious, then frame it up that way, but always give the person the ability to choose. Don’t force them into a corner unless they ask for one good option. Also if you don’t have a good option to offer, say so.

4. Keep a database. For resources and people, keep a database for yourself and others – so that you can be a better ‘go to’ resource. I sort my e-mails by business services and highlight the ‘go to’ firms/people at the top of each list.

5. Vet. Now here’s the hard part – vet the information and people that you will refer. That means work with them ahead of time, ask them questions – like a job interview… ‘tell me a time when you faced adversity and overcome it…’ etc. This is what it takes, and even then sometimes people slip through. Do the groundwork with people – that cup of coffee three years ago may pay off.

6. Follow-up. If you referred a couple people to an assignment, follow-up with the person who asked. They almost never get back – and so proactively ask what they decided to do, and if they followed your advice, how did it work out? Make any adjustments in your database of info and people depending on the feedback.

Sometimes I’m surprised, positively and negatively. Hey I’m married for over 31 years and every once in a while my wife and I find out something new about each other. So how could we possibly know all there is to know about people we may refer? We can’t! This is one reason why I love Vistage – it gives you a chance to see people month in and month out, in good times and bad – and paints a better, more full picture of each potential person you might refer.

There will always be surprises – oh the stories I could tell! But if you devote the time and process to it, you’ll be more effective at providing referrals, and the benefits will come back to you, too. It’s hard to put a value on helping others succeed.


About Doug Bruhnke

Growth Nation is a global full-service marketing and business growth firm that creates more leads, stronger brands and higher revenue for clients in technology, manufacturing, healthcare and professional services. Our growth process has created over $1 billion of new revenue.

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