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Referral Incentives, The Gift For Giving

Elizabeth's Note: I am proud to issue my Elizabeth's Best Award to Dr. Ivan Misner and Brennan Scanlon for their new book Avoiding the Networking Disconnect. Dr. Misner graciously writes for us each month and I hope you will follow him and read his new book for the best and world-class networking advice.

Everybody loves referrals and one thing I’ve learned, is that they also love to be recognized for giving referrals. Experienced business professionals agree that referrals are easier to close, have fewer complaints, are more loyal, remain clients longer and are more trusting.

I have found that incentives can be one of the most important methods of generating referrals for successful business professionals. Incentives can range from simple recognition such as a thank you, to monetary rewards based on business generated.

Creativity is the key to any good incentive program. People just naturally like to help each other, but especially when they know their efforts are successful. Let your contact know when a referral he or she has made comes through, and be as creative as you can.

I’ve heard many novel ways business people reward those who send them referrals. A consultant sends bouquets of flowers A music store owner sends concert tickets. A financial planner sends change purses and money clips.

An accountant in St. Louis thanks those who successfully refer a client to him by paying for a dinner for two at an exclusive restaurant at least one hour’s drive from their homes. This approach firmly plants the accountant in the minds of his referral sources: they won’t be able to use it right away because the distance requires that they plan for it. As the date approaches, because it has been planned, they’ll be talking about it, and probably about the accountant. Later, when the referring party runs into someone else who might need an accountant, who will he recommend?

One Realtor I met in Northern California told me that for almost six years he had offered a one-hundred-dollar finders’ fee to anyone giving him a referral that lead to a listing or sale. He said that in all that time he had given only about a dozen finder’s fees, so he decided to try another kind of incentive.

Living on a large parcel of land in prime wine country, he had begun growing grapes in his own vineyard. A thought had occurred to him: Why not take the next step? He began processing the grapes and bottling his own special vintage wine. After the first harvest, he had a graphic artist design a beautiful label, which he affixed to each bottle. He told all his friends that he did not sell this wine; he gave it as a gift to anyone providing him with a bona fide referral.

He gave away dozens of cases in the first three years – half the time it took him to give only one dozen cash finder’s fees. Yet each bottle cost him less than ten dollars to produce. This special vintage wine makes him infinitely more money than giving away a handful of hundred-dollar finder’s fees.

About two weeks after the first edition of this book went to the printer, I got a call from the Realtor. “Has your book gone into print?” he asked. I told him it had. “Too bad,” he replied. “I’ve got a terrific story for you.”

Last Friday I got a phone call from a woman I didn’t know. Out of the blue, she have me two referrals. As I wrote down the information, I asked her how she had heard of me.

She said, “I had dinner last night at a friend’s house. He served wine. I took a sip. ‘Wow, great wine!’ I told him. Where did you buy it?” “You can’t buy it,” he said. “The only way you can get it is to give this real estate agent a referral.”

“ I have two referrals,” she said. “Can I get two bottles?”

“So I gladly sent her two bottles. Both referrals turned into business, and each of them cost me only ten dollars.”

It sometimes amazes me, even now, how something as simple as a bottle of wine can be such a power incentive for people to give you referrals. But the explanation is really quite simple: because it’s special. A bottle of wine that can’t be bought can be worth ten times what it cost to produce when traded for something as valuable as a business referral.

Are there employees, co-workers, friends, or relatives who might be able to refer you? It always surprises me that people forget to provide the incentives for the individuals working with them. You’ll probably need to offer different kinds of incentives for different groups of people. You may choose to offer something completely different for your employees than you would for your clients or networking associates, such as bonuses and vacation days.

Remember, finding the right incentive is considered the biggest challenge by most individuals who are preparing to score big by building a referral business. To make it easier on yourself, be sure to get opinions and feeback from others who have a significant interest in your success.

This book is for business people wanting to increase their business through referrals.

Authors Dr. Ivan Misner and Brennan Scanlon are experts in the area of business networking. Their careers have focused on teaching entrepreneurs, business owners, and sales people how to build and leverage professional referral networks. Their combined fifty years of experience and ideas have been funneled directly into this book.

In Avoiding the Networking Disconnect, they share their networking insights, providing you with stories, statistics, and strategies for creating more sales through a tried-and-true approach that champions connections rather than competition.

At the heart of this approach are the “three Rs.” Similar to the three Rs of education (reading, writing, and arithmetic), the three Rs of business networking—relationships, referrals, and results—must be consistently cultivated to avoid the networking disconnect.

The book provides you with the five steps for building and maintaining strong business networks—steps that go far beyond just showing up at events and passing out your business cards! It will take some effort, and the process won’t always flow smoothly, but with the aid of Avoiding the Networking Disconnect, you’ll soon be reaping the generous benefits of a business approach based on sharing and trust.

About Dr. Ivan Misner

Called the “father of modern networking” by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. He is the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI (, the world’s largest business networking organization. His new book, Avoiding the Networking Disconnect can be viewed


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