How to Train Your Referral Partners in Just 2 Steps

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Have you ever met someone at a networking event and hit it off?

You schedule a time to meet over coffee or lunch…

The meeting goes fabulously well. You both leave agreeing to find “mutually beneficial” ways to help each other, and then…


Your new partner is suddenly whisked into the witness protection program. She’s incommunicado.

What started out with so much promise, turns out to be a dud.

Why Referral Partners Fail You

In my 20 years in business, I’ve found that almost everyone I meet is well meaning. If they say they want to help, they do intend to help.

Yet, they often fail to follow through.

The Unpaid, Untrained Sales Force

Stop and think for a moment what you expect from referral partners and clients when you ask them to refer. You’re really asking them to do your prospecting for you.

For most businesses, prospecting–lead generation–is the single most difficult activity in the business. If you think about it, that is the business.

How can we believe that a virtual stranger will effectively prospect, when our paid, and expensively trained sales force struggles to do it?

What Causes Partners to Disappear

Your new referral partner wants to help. It’s just that she’s got to make sales herself. Plus, she’s got a family. And, maybe some friends.

In other words…a full life and a full plate.

Then you arrive in her life and she truly wants to help, but life intervenes.

If Only You Were Easier to Refer

Part of the problem your partner faces is that you’re simply too hard to refer. She’s not exactly sure what you do, or who she should refer.

And, your “first encounter” with anyone she might refer is going to be some form of call or meeting–a sales meeting.

Sales meetings are scary. Nobody likes to go into a sales meeting. They might get sold something!

Sales meetings carry implied sales pressure. You know it. Your referral partner knows it. And the referred prospect knows it. So, it’s often easier to “go dark” and avoid the situation.

We need to make referral marketing easier…

The Answer: Train Your Referral Partners in 2 Steps…

Step 1: The Johnny Carson Method

You might be old enough to remember Johnny Carson–the host of The Tonight Show before Leno, before Conan, before Fallon. Johnny had a knack for introducing people to everyone he knew.

He’d just sit them down on his couch and ask them questions…

And let 10 million people watch it all on TV.

There was never any “sales pressure” to go see a guest like Jerry Seinfeld’s comedy show after he appeared with Carson.

But lots of people did. Spending lots of money.

Johnny was the tastemaker for his audience.

Why Interviewing Your Partners is Perfect Training

Your ultimate goal is to get your partner to share you with anyone and everyone who might be a prospect for you.

But before you can get there, it helps to build some trust. Show your referral partner how to easily get you in front of everyone they know.

You do it by first “introducing” them to everyone you know, through a simple interview.

See, if your referral partner is interacting with your prospects, there’s a good chance they have some expertise or wisdom that your clients would appreciate and value.

An interview takes little time–20-30 minutes. Almost no technology–a phone and a free conference line will do. And, you don’t need anything more than a handful of questions (your partner can provide them) and the ability to have a conversation.

In an hour of your time, total, you can prove to your new referral partner how easy it is for you to share them with everyone in your network.

Just have a valuable conversation, record it, then email a link to the audio to your network of clients, and partners, and prospects.

You’ll be shocked by the feedback

When our clients use this technique the first time, they’re surprised when their own clients call and thank them for sharing the interview.

(The goodwill you create with your own clients is a bonus!)

It’s important that you pass that positive feedback to your referral partner. It’ll make them feel great about being interviewed.

It also validates the fact that people like and value this type of information sharing because…

Step 2: Now it’s time to put their training into action

Once you’ve shared how much your clients appreciated hearing your partner’s interview, with the partner, it’s the perfect time to suggest “turning the tables.”


“I’m so glad I was able to share your knowledge with my network. They really benefited. I’d like to return the favor. I think your contacts might get a lot of value from knowing more about [insert your area of expertise].

I’d love to have you interview me, so we can help your people the way we’ve helped mine.”

Nine out of ten referral partners will jump at the chance. If you happen to come across the tenth one, well…you’ve just learned a lot about that partner.

How to “control” your interview

There are three things you’ll want to do to ensure you make the most of your interview.

  1. Write your questions. Don’t settle for a free-flow conversation, and don’t put any extra work on your partner. Write questions that, when you answer, give the listeners “ah-ha” moments.
  2. Do all the logistic work. Again, don’t put any work on your partner. Write the cover note/email. Bring lunch to their office and offer to help them send the email while you both eat. Get creative…just don’t make it “homework” for your partner, or it’ll drop to the bottom of their to-do list.
  3. Put a lead generation offer at the end.Doing the interview is great. But a big mistake is omitting any next-step call to action. The best offer in these interviews is to offer what I call a Referral Kit™ (an educational marketing piece).

That gets interested prospects to raise a hand and identify themselves to request your Referral Kit.

But wait, there’s more…

There’s one little hidden benefit of this process…

After you publish your first interview or two, your other partners will want in. Your opportunities just multiplied!

Here’s how to put it all together

So, we’ve covered a lot of ground. Let’s review the process…

First: Offer to interview your referral partner to share their expertise with your network. Distribute the interview to your clients, prospects, and other partners.

Second: As soon as you get positive feedback from your network, share it with your partner and “turn the tables.” Suggest they interview you to share your expertise with your partner’s network.

Rinse. Repeat.

Watch as your list of interested prospects and network of effective partners grows.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Referrals.

About the Author

Steve GordonSteve Gordon is the author of Unstoppable Referrals: 10x Referrals, Half the Effort. Over 7000 people downloaded his free Referral Blueprint for Professional Service Firms.
Free download: Would like to have the exact script I use to get referral partners to say “YES” to an interview?
Click here and tell me where to send it…



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