Most of us have been in situations where someone asked for a favor long before they built the social capital to make that kind of request, if they built any capital at all.
Building deep referral relationships is almost completely dependent upon the social capital you have built with someone. Social capital is similar to financial capital in a very important respect. To amass financial capital, you have to invest and grow your assets. You have to have money in the bank before you can make a withdrawal. Relationships are very much the same – referral relationships in particular.
Here’s a great example of someone who amassed quite a bit of social capital…from me.
Alex was what I would call a casual business associate, but from early on after our introduction, every time I spoke to him, he invested in the relationship. He gave me ideas, gave me his time, he even did some work on a website for me mostly as a favor. He invested…and invested…and invested.
I kept asking how I could help him, to return the favor and reciprocate for all the kindnesses and great help he’d been to me. His answer every time was, “I don’t need anything. I’m happy to do this.”
This went on for almost a year. Every couple of months, Alex would show up on my radar and do something for me.
Then, one time, he phoned me and said, “I have a favor to ask…” and I stopped him right there.
“Yes!” I said.
“But you didn’t even hear what the favor is!” laughed Alex.
I replied that I didn’t have to hear what the favor was. I told him I knew him well enough to know he was not going to ask me something impossible, and that he had invested so much into the relationship that I would do anything in my power to help.
When he told me what he needed, it was easy – a small promotion of one of his services. It was a big thing for Alex, and such an easy thing for me. I was happy to do it.
Throughout my career, I have had huge number of folks come to me and ask me to promote something for them. The thing is, the majority of those who contact me have never met me, never had a conversation at all. They’ve never invested in the relationship, yet they want a withdrawal from it!
Before you ask for a withdrawal, make sure to make an investment, and build a deep referral relationship. If you can answer “yes” to most or all of the following points about a person and his or her business, you would have a pretty deep referral relationship:
• You trust them to do a great job and take great care of your referred prospects.
• You have known each other for at least one year.
• You understand at least three major products or services within their business and feel comfortable explaining them to others.
• You know the names of their family members and have met them personally.
• You have both asked each other how you can help grow your respective businesses.
• You know several of their goals for the year, including personal and/or business goals.
• You could call them at 9 o’clock at night if you really needed something.
• You would not feel awkward asking them for help with either a personal or business challenge.
• You enjoy the time you spend together.
• You have regular appointments scheduled, both business and/or personal.
• You enjoy seeing them achieve success.
• They are “top of mind” regularly.
• You have open, honest talks about how you can help each other further.
You may be shocked at the level of personal knowledge required for a deep referral relationship, and you may want to argue that referrals should be all about business. I completely disagree. It takes a lot to develop this type of relationship, but those who do will certainly succeed at building a business from referrals.