Giving Referrals - Getting Referrals - Thom Singer

Getting and giving referrals is the lifeblood to business. Many people would be out of business if it was not for “word-of-mouth”. I meet many people, across industry lines, who say that their business is a “relationship business”. This could not be more true for anyone as it is for professional speakers. My whole business is made up of people telling others about why they should hire me to speak at their company or association.

Sharing referrals is key. You cannot sit back and expect others to sing your praises and refer your product or service if you are not leading by example. Outbound sales, business networking, social media, and marketing are all important – but giving referrals (quality referrals) is the life-blood for the future to many entrepreneurs.

Why Refer Others?

Recently another professional business motivational speaker stopped me in the hallway at the National Speakers Association annual convention (Called “Influence”). We had never met, but she knew my name. She had found me online while doing competitive research. She has searched the term “Professional Speakers” and found a page on my website that came up on the first page of the results. The page is one I send to my clients and past clients who are seeking great ideas on keynote speakers. This is my best way of helping others when I have strong referral opportunity.

This woman was confused why I would have a page that links out to 12 other professional speakers. She wanted to understand my strategy for giving referrals when obviously my business was about getting work for myself. She said “I have a hard enough time finding potential customers to come to my site. Why would I be referring people away?”.

I told her that the site was not originally designed to come up in a Google Search, but once it did I was thrilled. Meeting planners are seeking a wide range of speakers, and while I am not always going to be their cup of tea, I am excited to help them connect with amazing corporate speakers. The purpose of the site is for me to forward it to my past clients as a resource. If discovered by search, I do hope that people will consider me, but I am not the right fit for every meeting.

She still suggested I pull down the site, as she did not see the win in it for me. What she did not realize is how many calls I get from that exact page. About once a month I get a lead from people who search the term “Professional Speaker”. While many bounce away from my website, it is still worth it for the number of phone calls I receive.

Givers Get

If we make 100% of our marketing self-focused, we lose. Good referrals come to those who give good referrals. Givers get. My career is a case study in how giving referrals leads to inbound leads. I love attending networking groups, but I get more opportunities from other speakers than any other single marketing effort.

An article on talks about the “Golden Rule of Referrals”. The author describes three ways of giving referrals, but the most important one is “The Perfect Referral”. It is possible to just name drop or send a simple email, but when the person making the referral is engaged in the process, that is when the magic happens:

“The Perfect Referral. When you talk to both people, get permissions and also confirm the fit before going forward. Followed by a confirmation (maybe by email) and a follow up on how the meeting went and possibly attending the meeting itself. This is what a perfect referral looks like. Your process needs to cover these elements.”

How To Get Referrals

Of course most people are more interested in getting referrals than giving referrals. But that is short sighted. In a Forbes article called “The 7 Ways to Boost Valuable Business Referrals”, tip #4 is about giving referrals (they even suggest it is the BEST way to boost referrals):

“Probably the best way to boost referrals is to make a habit of referring business to others. The act of recommending another business to a friend or colleague can start a chain reaction that can lead to lots of new business.”

I get excited about giving referrals. When I speak to business owners and sales teams I always ask people to “think of the last time you made a referral that lead to booked business?”. If they cannot think of it, then they have some work to do. While few publicly announce they have no idea, many come up to me at the break and confess they cannot recall the last time they were actively giving referrals to others.

The other trick is to give referrals to your competitors. Not all who you compete with overlap with your business model in all areas. When you are seen as someone who is not scared to share opportunities, then your reputation in your industry goes way up. I make about 10 referrals a year that lead to other speakers getting new business. Many of these people then return the favor and tell their clients about my services.

Make giving referrals a priority. Reach out to me and share your stories of getting and giving referrals. I am always seeking great case studies from my speeches and articles.


Thom Singer is a funny keynote speaker and professional master of ceremonies / emcee.