How to Cash In on Referrals

This article first appeared at on April 15, 2011.

I thrive on word-of-mouth referrals for my freelance writing services, as do most owners of small businesses or sole proprietors.

But what’s the difference between a referral and a lead? How do you know when a referral will become money in your pocket? And how do you revive old referrals?

If you want to be able to cash in your referrals, or to be able to give referrals that will result in business for your friends, here are some helpful hints that have guided my business over the past 15 years.

Where can you find a networking group?

Business Network International is the world’s largest business networking organization, with tens of thousands of members in dozens of countries globally. BNI offers a proven system for increasing referrals built around the “Givers Gain” philosophy. I belong to BNI Embarcadero in San Francisco and it’s far and away the focus of my networking efforts.

What’s the difference between a referral and a lead?
There’s a big difference! One is a “warm handshake” while the other is the equivalent of a cold call to someone who may or may not be receptive to you.

When can a referral become money in your pocket?

It’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time with the right experience. Not all referrals lead to business, but if you’re introduced to someone who needs your product or service now, there’s a higher likelihood that they’ll use you after you’re personally introduced to them with a strong testimonial.

How do you revive old referrals and turn them into new business?

For a variety of reasons, some referrals just take longer to become a reality. Every company has its own timeline, and as the outsider, you’re never really in the know on what that is. I check in with these potential clients every few weeks by phone or email to check up on their status.

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