What not to do to build business referral relationships

Last evening a colleague of mine was at a Denver networking event. She is an excellent web and graphic designer. She has great integrity, top-notch professionalism and customer service, and her business is growing because of it.

At this event there were other competitors of hers there. But, those of us in marketing who understand the big picture enjoy building business relationships with our competitors – if they represent the same quality of professionalism, customer service and quality of work as ourselves.

My colleague was approached by this man named Ben who has his own web company in Denver metro. He viewed my colleague as an opponent, instead of a potential professional referral partner.

As they began to talk and ask questions of each other, Ben asked my colleague what content management system (CMS) technology she uses on her websites. My colleague informed him she uses a product called Umbraco. It is a premiere CMS – we liken it to a Mercedes compared to some of the more well-known content management systems out there. It is much more user-friendly and it is robust with the customization it allows the programmer to do. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Umbraco (or the others), but some people who only sell Word Press, Joomla, or other PHP CMS websites tend to criticize a technology they know nothing about, and that is just what Ben started to do.

Instead of being polite and professional he rolled his eyes and made faces at her in a group situation. No, they weren’t one-on-one (not that this behavior would be OK one-on-one), there were other people in the group listening and watching on. He could have turned this into a potential professional referral relationship by saying to my colleague something like, “Oh, so you don’t do Word Press? We do Word Press sites and perhaps if you ever get a client who wants Word Press we could work together.”

I was disgusted that someone in our industry would act this way. My colleague was also bothered at how he made her defend her position in front of others. For him to stand there and do what he did just shows he has not done any research on this CMS or its amazing capabilities. Unfortunately, this type of ignorance, arrogance, unprofessionalism and/or rudeness exists at nearly every networking event I go to. The short-sided viewpoint of competitors being opponents is wrong! Competitors can make great referral partners if they offer something you don’t offer, or serve a market you don’t serve.

I’m sure Ben will continue to network, steer people the wrong way and get new business, but hopefully my blog will reach a few people and warn them about the likes of the Ben’s of the world.  Please share this blog with others.

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