In the business world, strategic alliances are not contingent upon how long one has been working in a particular field or profession. In fact, building strategic partnerships can, and should, begin with the first day on the job.
Regardless of your years of experience, it is important to determine and know what makes a key strategic referral partner. Many times we discover that there are several individuals we know in any given field or industry, with some that we currently have an existing business relationship with. What do we do then when we find ourselves in a networking group, a Chamber, or other organization with many individuals of the same profession? How do we discern who is the best fit for us?
A great way to determine the potential of a specific business professional is with what I call the referral partner litmus test. With all the one to one’s we have each month, it’s inevitable that not every person will be an ideal partner. But how do we determine not only who would be a good referral partner, but a great referral partner? Each one to one meeting certainly has the potential to pass solid referrals, but that in and of itself doesn’t make for a key strategic relationship. It actually goes much deeper than that. My personal referral partner litmus test allows me to reflect on the potential strength, compatibility, and potential of any relationship by uncovering the answers to the following questions:
- How many open-ended questions did the other professional ask me?
- Was our time together evenly divided?
- Was the overall theme one of partnership or was it one-sided?
- Do I feel completely comfortable in providing my top client as a referral to this person?
- How does this person pass referrals? Is it via email? A phone call? A personal introduction?
- Is this person relational or transactional?
- What are their follow up skills like?
Before investing the time and effort into any business relationship it’s important to protect your time, for it is the most important asset you have. Create your own list of questions you can use to carefully select future referral partners. Building these relationships slowly and methodically will ensure your foundation is solid, which will help sustain your future growth.
Keep it disciplined.