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From time to time, professionals get frustrated with their referral relationships - specifically, the amount of time that passes between their first interaction with a potential referral source and when they actually get a quality referral. I remind them that there are several moving pieces to every referral relationship that need to be considered before becoming frustrated at a lack of results.

First, relationship development cannot be forced. The creation of rapport and trust takes time - a long time, in fact. Think about it from a personal perspective: How many times do you need to interact with a new drycleaner before you build trust and confidence in their ability to meet your expectations? And, with most referrals, there is much more on the line than a few broken shirt buttons. So, make sure that every interaction you have with a referral source develops rapport and increases trust in you as a provider.

Next, quantity plays a role in your success. If you have all your eggs in one referral basket (i.e. one referral source), you may wait quite a long time in between referrals. Most rainmakers have at least a dozen referral sources that regularly refer business. How many do you have and how many more do you need? 

Quality matters too. You may not be getting referrals because the referral sources may not have the right kinds of clients to refer. If you are seeking referrals into emerging restaurant groups and your referral source primarily works with retirees, there is a mismatch and you’ll likely never get a great referral from this contact.

Finally, sometimes you need to give to get. While you sit and wait, remember that this potential referral source may also be sitting and waiting – for you to send them something first. While you may not have anything you can send, there are things you can do - consider making a valuable introduction of another sort. Perhaps it is someone else in your network – someone who could help them in some way. After all, if this person is a valuable contact for you, they could be a valuable contact to others as well.

So, before you throw in the towel on referral sources, remember that there are several moving pieces to every referral relationship that you need to consider. If you review your relationships objectively, you may determine there are some gaps you need to fill before you can expect to receive your next great referral. Take the time to fill these gaps and watch your referral pipeline grow!

Art Kuesel is the president of Kuesel Consulting where he helps CPA firms perfect their growth strategies and actions to drive revenue in the door. He can be reached at art@kueselconsulting.com