How to Avoid Blowing a Possible Referral

We’ve all taken part in relationship-building conversations. This exchange occurs between two business owners for the purpose of establishing rapport and building trust. In many cases, it’s in hopes of a rewarding referral exchange association. Knowing what NOT to do is equally as important as what to do.

How to Avoid Blowing a Possible Referral

In case you’re new in business, or haven’t had the honor of working with reliable mentors to teach you the principles of good relationship building, this is a business tutorial in what NOT to do.

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Don’t have your assistant do what you need to do. Like connects with like. If you’re reaching out to the owner of a business, don’t have your assistant schedule the meeting. You risk insulting the business owner (and you haven’t even met them yet).

Don’t miss your meeting. Time is valuable to a small business owner. Asking an entrepreneur to set aside 45 minutes of their priceless time to meet you is a BIG ask. Don’t waste their time. Have the courtesy of keeping the appointment.

Don’t be late. Time is a precious commodity for the small business owner. (Do I sound like a broken record?) When you’re late for the meeting YOU requested, you demonstrate a disregard for the other person and erode trust.

Don’t show up unprepared. Coming to a meeting cold is like showing up for an important test in middle school having not study. It doesn’t matter your ability to perform “on the fly”, lack of preparation shows. Don’t attend ill equipped. Care enough about the other person to do your homework.

Don’t make it all about you. If you’re lucky enough for the appointment to proceed, it’s impolite to focus a conversation on you when you’ve requested the meeting. Most professional business owners aren’t going to say “enough about you, let’s talk about me now”. Be professional and direct the conversation to the other individual.

Don’t ask how you can help. When you’ve made the conversation about your business, you lack a frame of reference from which to know how you can assist another. When you ask how to support their business efforts, you demonstrate a lack of engagement in the conversation.

Don’t ask for a referral. If you’ve done any of the steps listed above, you’ve likely dug yourself a hole so deep that you’ll need an act of God to climb out. Only a fool would provide a referral at this time. Don’t ask. You risk even more brand damage.

We live in an instant society. We want things and we want them now. However, your initial interaction can make or break your chances of developing the business relationship of your lifetime. Getting to the end result too quickly causes irreparable damage to your business relationships. Don’t blow it!


  1. Excellent article! Too many people do one of these things. I would add to your list – if anything, AT ALL, changes regarding your meeting, call the other person immediately on their mobile number (you did get that, didn’t you?) and update them. It might be a construction project started and you have to detour. It might be that your kid woke up with a fever and you need to reschedule. CALL! As soon as you know there is even the possibility of being late or needing to reschedule.