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What to Ask for From Business Referrals

What to Ask for From Business Referrals

A referral relationship works best when you both benefit. In order to expand your reach, you need to know how to guide the conversation in your favor. It's important to know how to ask questions and, more importantly, how to ask the right questions when building your referral network.

Open-ended questions allow for unlimited responses and provide more detail than close-ended questions. Our networking experts have put together these effective questions to guide you in building sustainable relationships with business referrals at your next networking event.

Building Connection and Trust With Potential Referrals

Finding common ground provides a pathway of communication that leads to trust, which is an important part of building authentic connections with other professionals. Giving people a chance to tell you their story gives you valuable clues as to who they are. Here are a few quick questions to help break the ice with potential business referrals.

  1. Where are you from?
  2. How was your weekend?
  3. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
  4. What line of work are you in? (This question is the ideal segway into learning about what type of referrals can bring them value.)

Typically, after you ask introductory questions, your conversation partner will do the same for you. This is where you share about your own story and business. Once you have developed a level of rapport and built up a general understanding of each other, progress to more business-related questions.

Learning More About Their Business

Getting mutually beneficial referrals is the goal for everyone at lead-focused networking events. The key isn't to sell yourself but to listen and find areas where a business relationship can add value. Here are some questions to dig into someone’s professional experience.

  1. What types of projects are you currently working on?
  2. What products or services does your company provide?
  3. Who are your typical clients and customers?
  4. What are some challenges facing your company?

Now that you have an understanding of their business and what they do, find out how you can help them.

Asking How You Can Help Them

These questions matter early on in the relationship because if you can't bring value to the table with this person, it's doubtful they will meet with you again. Throughout this process, you’re also trying to establish whether each person you talk to could be a good referral connection, or if that connection is better left on friendly, non-expectant terms. Here are questions that can help you and your new connection decide if you can support each other.

  1. Tell me about the kind of professionals you're looking to connect with?
  2. What type of business are you most looking for?
  3. What are some of your biggest challenges getting new customers?

These questions demonstrate that you have the other person's interests in mind, and it's a great way to continue to build credibility and trust.

The Most Important Closing Question to Ask

The relationship-building doesn't end at the event. It takes an average of seven meaningful 'touches' (including a minimum of two face-to-face meetings) with someone before a person feels they know enough about you to consider doing business with you or referring others to your business. Don't leave without contact information from interested connections or a follow-up meeting scheduled. Here’s how you can introduce an in-person follow-up with referrals you've met who might be a good fit to help you expand your business reach.

  1. I would love to keep talking about [your business/their business/a shared interest]. Will you be at next week’s meeting?
  2. Would you like to meet for coffee sometime this week?
  3. Can we meet for lunch on Thursday next week?

Don't wait for them to reach out to you, take the initiative. It shows that you are serious and interested in building a referral-based relationship with them.

For regular, dedicated networking opportunities across a wide variety of locations, join 4BR's business networking groups. Our groups are composed of professionals across industries who are focused on building effective networking connections. See what groups are in your area and get started with 4BR.

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