What about Referral Sources Who Don’t Refer?

I've been having lunch with this guy, on and off, for four years. We've probably been to lunch eight times, met for coffee twice, talked on the phone a dozen times, and e-mailed back and forth every few months. He is, theoretically at least, a referral source. He's an accountant with a pretty good practice.

I say he's “theoretically” a referral source because, a few weeks ago, I realized he's never referred a case to us. He's a good guy, and I like him. He acts like he's going to refer, but still—no referrals.

Sadly, I've learned a hard lesson here. Unfortunately, not every referral source refers.

Why? Maybe he doesn't like me? Maybe he doesn't have anyone to refer? Maybe he's got another relationship that he prioritizes over our relationship? Maybe he thinks I don't know what I'm doing? Maybe I've never referred to him and he's waiting?

I've got a choice to make now.

I can write him off, stop taking him to lunch, and move on to greener pastures.

Or, and this is what I'm inclined to do, I can ask him why he hasn't ever referred to me.

I'm imagining the following conversation:

“We've known each other for years. I've always enjoyed our meetings. I feel like we've helped one another with our practices by talking about things and sharing ideas. I realized the other day that, after all this time, I don't believe I've ever had a client come to me as a result of your referral. I'm wondering about that. Is it possible that you're making referrals and they're not telling us where they came from? Is it possible that they're just not making it to us? Or do you think there's something else?”

Then he says “___________________.”

I have no idea how he'll fill in the blank. Maybe it'll go well. Maybe there's a problem I don't understand. Maybe we'll fix it and get the referrals started.

My plan is to ask the question and see what happens. Is that what'd you'd do? Got a better idea? Let me know in the comments below.

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