Putting a Price on Your Referral Relationships

By Paula Frazier

Very little surprises me anymore. I’ve pretty much seen or heard it all when it comes to business relationships, both good and bad—or so I thought. Last Friday, after a very satisfying day at work, I came home to a true FIRST! Someone had mailed me a hand-written note card with a check inside to “settle up.”

If you ever want to completely insult someone that you’ve been in a referral relationship with, take out your checkbook and write them a check. I mean it – pay it to the order of someone that has been a committed customer and contributed to your success in countless ways. Write an actual amount on the dollar line that symbolizes the current value of your relationship and sign your name. Be sure to include a note, put a stamp on it, and mail it.

What was their motivation? I can only guess. Clearly they thought they owed me something, otherwise they wouldn’t have taken such an action. You don’t typically write a check to someone you don’t feel you owe. I also know the real question on your mind: How much was the check? All in good time!

My first thoughts (honestly) were – bad word, bad word, bad word. Then after a painful, solutions-focused conversation with a peer and leader in my industry, Hazel Walker, I was reminded that IT’S ALL MY FAULT. More bad words came to mind, only this time they were aimed in the right direction—at me.

Hazel began to empathize by telling me how she’d referred business to a fellow trainer. She even took some of his workshops to show her support and to be able to refer him with integrity. Hazel did her best to educate him on how he could refer back to her. The trainer never once tried to refer Hazel because, ultimately, he saw her as competition, even though they offered trainings in two completely different areas of business. He was glad to receive, but had no intention of giving back at any point. So she stopped investing in the relationship.

Like Hazel, I was a really good customer and regular referral source for the person that had sent me the note. But they were not satisfied with some of my referrals—they wanted all of my referrals. They also admitted that they saw me as a form of competition, even though I was making every effort to remain their number one promoter and customer. For all the times I’d said “Yes,” it’s the one time that I chose to say “No” that erased all the good I’d ever done. I am still a regular customer to this day.

Hazel also reminded me that we are experienced referral marketers and that we operate at an extremely high level. As such, we have lofty expectations for the people we interact with as referral sources. We instinctively start by giving to others because it’s our life philosophy and a huge part of our industry’s culture.

So I took a look at my giving activities for the last 6-8 months regarding the note sender. Let’s just say that the list was incredibly long and the results produced to date have been incredibly one-sided, from me to them.

Had I given so quietly, so seamlessly, and so generously that when they began to evaluate our relationship they felt that they were so far in a deficit that there was no way they could give back enough to make their way out? No pressure, right?

“I am in the business of building relationships,
not buying and selling them.” ~H.Walker

Had the person that sent the note done things to help me in my business? Absolutely! But I’m not the one that attempted to put a value on our relationship and write a check. How much was it? Here’s the figure: $200. It was a reflection of their perceived value of the balance due in our relationship—when I’d personally invested thousands in them! I decided to keep the check, but not to cash it. It will serve as a reminder of an invaluable lesson learned:

Good referral partners believe in abundance and
operate from a position of abundance.

Hazel had given abundantly to the trainer in her personal experience. I had given abundantly to my note sender. In both cases they said they felt we were competing with each other, and they made the decision to discontinue the relationship after the steady flow of referrals ceased.

We finally determined the one thing they both had in common: scarcity mentality. Either they don’t believe there is enough business to go around, or they actually think we’re in true competition and they don’t want to compete with us, or both. Scarcity thinking is something that we can make them aware of but, sadly, it’s not something we’re qualified to coach them through.

Are you making decisions out of scarcity or abundant thinking?
How is it affecting your business and your business relationships?
The answer is in the results.
If you’re not sure, I highly recommend a book
by Kim George – Coaching Into Greatness

Paula Frazier is a referral marketing trainer, coach, consultant and keynote speaker. She is an Executive Director for BNI and part of a select team of Master Trainers for Referral Institute. Paula’s business networking articles have been published internationally. She is also acknowledged in the New York Times best seller, Truth or Delusion – Busting Networkings Biggest Myths (check out Myth #33: Delusion with a twist!). Paula can be contacted at

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One Response to “Putting a Price on Your Referral Relationships”

  1. Thierry Mazué March 22, 2009 at 11:06 am #


    Having a positive attitude is definitely a way to describe you.

    What you wrote made my day : starting right now, I am checking if there is any part of my life in which I am not developing a mentality of abundance.

    Whenever flavors are a rich, perfect match, Karl Arguiñano -famous spanish cook- calls it : "Rico rico!"

    What you've shared with us was "Rico rico!".

    Thank you Paula.

    Thierry Mazué

    Lecteur français assidu de Paula Frazier

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