Things I've Learned the Hard Way: Vendor Referrals

I had a recruiting leader contact me recently, asking me for a few vendor referrals. I realized that - rather than simply rattling off a bunch of names, which I could have done - I hopped up on my soap box first.

Let me explain.

When you or I make a referral to a vendor, we're often putting our own reputation on the line, right? I mean, if the person who asks for the referral reaches out to the firm we refer, and has a bad experience, they remember the source of the referral, and our credibility goes down. Maybe now we're left with the stink of someone who "doesn't get it" or who clearly has "lower standards". Yuck. We don't want that.

I've adapted my personal vendor referral policy over the years:

I refer people, not companies.

I trust people I know. I don't "trust" companies. It probably comes from years of buying from the great sales rep, only to end up with the third-tier doers working my account once the sale is closed. Or sticking with a company when my rockstar account manager left, and I ended up with someone who didn't "get it".

So, maybe the next time you get asked for a referral, you might add the caveat that I add: "You should call Sherry over at ABC, she's great because she..." Make it clear that you're referring a person, not the whole company.

Without naming names (smile), do you have a bad referral story to share?

Note: Our consulting firm, Riviera Advisors, doesn't take any commissions or kick backs from the firms we refer. We don't believe we can be effective, objective consultants if our clients even remotely perceive some sort of financial incentive for us to refer any vendor other than the one that's best for their needs.