Referrals are the best way to build a business. I’d even argue that without them, your business is doomed.
The number of referrals you receive is an indicator of the health of your enterprise. And the type of referral indicates how you are perceived by the public.
For example, if your dream client invests an average of $10,000 for a particular product or service, but potential customers referred by your network have a budget of $100 for a different offering, something’s amiss.
I live in the Colorado mountains, hundreds of miles from my nearest client. (I started and sold two businesses, but for the past ten years, I’ve been a solopreneur and do no paid advertising.) To say I rely on recommendations is an understatement.
No business owner ever says, “I’m receiving too many referrals!” With this in mind, let’s approach the topic from the standpoint of our Christian faith.
Recommending you and your business
First, if you’re not receiving referrals on a regular basis, it’s time for introspection and/or coaching. No amount of paid advertising can overcome the root issues leading to a lack of referrals.
Since there are never “enough” recommendations, let’s ask ourselves some serious questions…
- Why would someone refer me and my business? If you can’t list a dozen reasons, it’s time to make a dozen changes.
- What might stop someone from recommending me? This is a tough question to stare at. But stare at it, and pray about it, until you have some answers. In the worst-case scenario, the improvements you make will take you from good to great.
We can build a solid business on referrals from people. But what about referrals from God? Is there even such a thing?
Does God care about your business?
Here’s where things get fun.
I’m referring to the concept of blessing, and more specifically, favor. The same Hebrew and Greek words for “favor” in the Bible are sometimes translated as “mercy” and “grace.” [http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/favor/]
Let’s look at a few verses for context.
“So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:4 ESV) Let’s be honest—it takes clients with money to make business happen. I’m pretty happy about the “and man” clause in that verse.
Speaking of work, “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” (Psalm 90:17 ESV) The favor of God can impact our work.
Lion-resistant Daniel worked in a very hostile environment, yet “God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs.” (Daniel 1:9 ESV) In other words, God made Daniel the boss’s favor-ite.
When someone refers a client to me, I believe it’s a sign of God’s blessing and care.
If you’re with me so far on the premise that God’s favor can positively impact our workplace and community relationships, we must tackle these two questions again.
Why would God recommend me?
Yep. Make a list. Really.
Theologically speaking, despite my misplaced hopes, I don’t believe God would favor (refer) me, and nudge people to remember me, if I’m not ready to deliver excellent service, or steward the opportunity.
Pretty simple concept, but I’ve overlooked this plenty of times. If I don’t have the production capacity, time management, discipline, skills, team resources, or capital—why would I expect God to bless me with the million-dollar contract requiring those assets?
Instead of dreaming about a breakthrough client or project, plan for one. Expand your capabilities and network to prepare.
The question (and prayer) then becomes…
What might be giving God “pause” about referring?
Do you make referrals to people you don’t believe are up for the opportunity? Of course not. Then why would God?
In the Bible story, why did one steward start with ten talents and others start with fewer? I personally believe the steward who received ten, did really well in previous years with one talent, then five.
How are we stewarding the opportunities right in front of us? What habits, deficiencies, or character issues prove to God that I’m not ready for the next level? My own answers to these questions are sobering. But this is where growth happens—personally and in our business operations.
Mercy and grace rules
When it comes to referrals, from God and people, remember it’s not about perfection, but perfect effort. We all fall short in fulfilling our best intentions. I’m grateful “his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.” (Psalm 30:5 ESV)
God’s favor is all about love and grace. Our effort and sacrifice are important. Excellent products and services are essential. But all the thanks goes to God.
Clients have told me, “I woke up this morning an your name just popped into my head” and “The Loomis Armored truck pulled up right beside me at a stoplight, and I knew I needed to call you.”
No, I’m not saying God orchestrated the truck, or whispered my name to the potential client. But I’m not saying He didn’t.
Wrestle with these two questions about referrals, and you’ll grow. Your business might, too. One referral can take your business to the next level.