How to develop great referral partners

By: Sarah Dew Whitsett

Last month I participated in an online event with about 20 other business owners. It was a fantastic experience and the content was stellar. As any business owners does, I took a look at everyone else who participated in the event and contacted the people I thought could be a great referral partner for us. 

Low and behold, an SEO expert appeared and she looked like a real person! If you know this industry at all, unfortunately, many of us have had some sketchy interactions with “SEO experts” something about her told me that she was different, and our clients need SEO.

So, I scheduled a virtual meeting with her to get to know her better. 

The reason I am telling you this story is that many of our clients hesitate to reach out to “strangers” and develop referral partnerships. You may be in the same camp. I would love to change your mind because if you are in business, you know that great referral partners are the BEST.

If you are thinking: I wouldn’t know what to say if I had the appointment. It would be awkward and truthfully part of me would rather die.

I get it, so let’s go over some general points to keep in mind as you have these conversations.

Keep it social – get to know the person. If you are going to be referring your clients to them and vice versa, you need to be sure that they will take good care of them. How do you find out about a person? Listen. Listen. Listen. Don’t just ask about work, try to find out who they are as a human.

For example, on my call we quickly discovered that we both share 3 boys all around the same age. And well, that is something not everyone shares so we swapped war stories on raising boys and working from home. 

I also learned how and why she started her business and why she is so dedicated to it. You see all of this for her is closely connected to her boys. I share the same background and it helps me to know how highly she views her work and clients. All in a very social conversation. 

And I got some fantastic advice on how to make sure my boys actually use soap in the shower. 

Make sure you ask how you can help them! During the course of the conversation she mentioned a small issue that she was working through in her business that I could easily solve. So I did. Just because. It was a joyful give on my end. She also did the same thing. Just because it felt good.

Lastly, if you are feeling good about the connection, GREAT! Make sure you keep up the relationship. Check in again in a few months and chat again. You will be amazed how your best referral partners can come from an easy social conversation. They key is to be the one to reach out, set up those meetings and follow up.

Who are you going to reach out to this month? 


Sarah is cofounder and strategist at Las Peregrinas, a creative and consulting agency. She’s all action and no beating around the bush. A former intensive care unit nurse, if you look closely, you’ll see her continuing to run triage in her work with clients now. It’s in her bones. Sarah’s ears are tuned to the efficient and effective use of time, money, and effort, and which actions need to be taken in which order to get the result you want.

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