How to Not Mess Up Referrals

When you’re being introduced to a potential source of new work, it’s important to preserve the relationships involved in the process. 

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #408

You’re on your way to the top! You needed some help reaching the CEO of Big Company Inc, so you reached out to your network. Lo and behold, one of your contacts knows the CEO and is willing to refer you. This is great news, but be careful! How you handle the referral will make an impression on your new contact, but it could affect your relationship with the the introducer. You need to make sure the introduction strengthens both relationships.

To make sure everyone walks away happy and fulfilled, keep your introducer in the loop.

Intern MG was vying for the Grandma Cuddles’ Daycare “button-pressing” internship, in the telecommunications closet at the daycare. It didn’t pay much, but working alongside Harry the Head Button Presser would be great exposure. So when Intern MG asked for an introduction to Grandma Cuddles, I had to say yes.

I emailed Grandma Cuddles on Monday to let her know MG would be getting in touch, and told MG to email her the same day. By Wednesday, the silence was deafening. Until I got a voicemail from Grandma Cuddles. “Where in the name of freakin’ heck is that intern you told me about?” She ranted. I, of course, had no clue.

Update Your Introducer

MG hadn’t emailed, and I didn’t know until it was too late. 

Keep your introducer informed and at ease, by touching base at key points in the introduction process: the moments where the introduction state changes. When you contact the referral, when they get back to you, after you meet, and then after you have results to report. When new developments take place, mention it to your introducer. “Thanks for introducing me to Cuddles. I have an interview next week!” This way, if any questions arise, your introducer will always be on top of things and come across as knowledgeable.

This person’s doing you a favor, so make sure your conduct makes them look good in everyone’s eyes.

Which brings up an important point ...

Be Prompt and Professional

It’s professional to contact your referral quickly. Once an introduction has been made, the clock starts ticking. Some referrals won’t care if you take a while to contact them. Others will expect to hear from you immediately. Be safe; err on the side of promptness.

Intern MG dragged his feet with Grandma Cuddle. That is not good. Grandma Cuddles is used to obedience. Fast, effective, and total obedience. When she had to wait, MG’s behavior reflected on me. And as nice as it was to see him finally screw up for once, it would have been even nicer if he hadn’t dragged me down in the process. As it was, thanks to MG’s delay, Granda said she was sending over a few of her little tykes to help hurry along the process.

It’s not enough just to be on time. I warned intern MG, as he was racing to the phone pursued by a group of toddlers wielding crayons sharpened to unnaturally sharp points, that he also needs to be polite. Wear appropriate clothes. Thank the referral for being willing to meet with you. Say “Please” and “Thank you.” Don’t use slang, until you’ve established the relationship.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.