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You spend a lot of time, effort and money to generate referrals. When you finally get one, you handle it with great care.
But that’s not always true.
Here’s my experience with two recent referrals: one was handled expertly, and the other demonstrated how careless ineptitude will lose you a prospective client.
On a recent Sunday evening, I received an e-mail from the CFO of an educational institution. He was considering recommending passive management to the investment committee for the school’s endowment. He asked for a recommendation of an advisory firm.
I sent an inquiry to the managing partner of a large firm, who I knew. Within an hour, he responded (keep in mind this was a Sunday), thanking me profusely for thinking of his firm, and copying the head of its institutional practice, who he said would contact me on Monday.
Within a few minutes of receiving that e-mail, the head of the institutional practice sent me an e-mail. It was also warm and deeply appreciative. He assured me he would follow up immediately and would keep me fully informed.
He has done so. Every time he communicated with me, he tells me how grateful he is for the referral and assures me he will do everything possible to serve the best interest of the institution.
His firm is on a short list and will be interviewed shortly. I hope it prevails. I reached out to the institution to affirm my confidence in this firm.
A client of our digital marketing firm is considering merging his firm. He needs help structuring the transaction. I asked an investment banking friend of mine for a recommendation (this transaction is too small for his firm). He introduced me to someone at another firm, via e-mail, and asked that person to contact me if he had the expertise and interest.
Here’s the e-mail I received from that contact:
I can try...out today, here’s my cell to catch up later this week.
In only 14 words, here’s what this person conveyed:
I’m only using lower case because this doesn’t merit the time it would take me to compose in a more correct manner.
Your inquiry is low on my list of priorities - so low that there is no need to schedule a date and time for a call. Keeping it loose suits my convenience – and that’s what matters.
You need me more than I need you.
There’s no need to thank you or even acknowledge your efforts to refer business to me.
It’s all about me. You and your client are largely irrelevant, which is why my initial inquiry expresses no interest in either of you.
I never responded to his e-mail. I was so put off I sent it to the firm that referred him and explained why I wasn’t going to pursue its recommendation. I received an immediate response from them, indicating they were in full agreement.
His thoughtless e-mail response resulted in killing the business opportunity from my client and prejudicing a valuable relationship with the investment banking firm that referred him.
It’s a perfect example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Don’t let this happen to you.
Dan Solin is a New York Times best-selling author of the Smartest series of books. His latest book is The Smartest Sales Book You'll Ever Read. His sales coaching practice includes helping advisors convert prospects into clients and generating leads through videos and other elements of marketing. Dan is not affiliated with any advisory firm.
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