THE BLOG

Greed Isn't Always Good... Five Reasons Why Personal Gain Isn't Always the Number One Reason People Will Refer You

20/01/2014 10:15 GMT | Updated 19/03/2014 09:59 GMT

Many people seem to assume that the people in their network are motivated purely by personal gain. And they often assume that the personal gain needs to be measured in obvious, cash terms.

Yet the reality is often far from this perception.

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Recently a fellow speaker and author sent out an email to his network asking them to help promote his new book. The focus of the email was firmly on how the recipients could 'make money' by promoting it. This author is someone whose work I trust implicitly and who, I believe, adds value to the people in my network. Yet I reacted negatively to his email because of the focus on commissions rather than just asking for support.

A couple of days later I offered to promote the book in a Facebook conversation and asked him for a link to share. The link I was sent was to an affiliate page on his website, again offering me the opportunity to earn money by promoting the book, rather than to the book itself. When I explained that I wasn't interested in commissions, I received this response:

"Why you wouldn't want commissions defeats me - but if you want to promote the book without getting any money then just send people to the website and I'll get the commission on top of my royalty...! Ker-ching. Thank you."

His response illustrates perfectly this belief that money is the ultimate motivator for one and all. Here are just a few of the reasons why his offer of commission was more of a deterrent than a motivating factor for me.

1 - I get pleasure from helping people I like and trust

I don't believe that I'm alone in enjoying helping others. In fact I often find that I get more joy from giving a successful referral than from receiving them (although, don't let me put you off!). I want to be surrounded by a network of people who take pleasure from helping each other, that way we all benefit.

2 - Helping my network is an investment for me

By promoting the right materials to my networks I become a valuable resource to them. By promoting the book, I become a supporter of, and valuable resource to, my colleague. Apart from just being happy to help both parties, such positioning means that both parties value me more highly and are more inclined to support me.

3 - I don't earn my living through commissions and affiliate fees

Some commissions are worth accepting. If I referred someone for a multi-million pound project and they wanted to pay me a reward, perhaps I'd have to consider my stance! However, I have chosen to earn my living through speaking, training and other related activity, not through commissions. One referral to a new client from my colleague would potentially be far more valuable to me than the commission on even a thousand books sold through my recommendation.

That's not to say that commission based models aren't valid, or that I would discount building this into our business model in the future. And if someone does work on a commission basis then offering them a reward is most likely to motivate them. But one size doesn't fit all.

4 - I don't want to muddy the waters of my recommendation or referral

If people know that I am being paid a commission to recommend or refer a supplier then that recommendation will naturally carry less weight. I want people to feel confident that I am making connections for purely selfless reasons and not to have any cause for doubt.

Yesterday I recommended a colleague to a client of mine who needed my help. The colleague immediately asked what financial reward I wanted if he won the business and seemed quite surprised when I insisted on none. Yet if he works his magic, my client will be better placed to put our work together into action and will get better results. In addition, that colleague may now be more aware of opportunities to refer me. Both work far better for me than a simple commission.

5 - I like to protect my relationships

Commissions are a very dangerous area unless the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed in any agreement. There can be a huge gap between the expectations of each party and that can soon lead to a breakdown in relationships. If you are going to offer incentives make sure that the terms are very clearly laid out in advance.

During a mentoring session earlier this week one of my clients, a financial advisor, told me about an accountant he had been speaking with. They talked about a number of referrals the accountant was passing across and then my client asked what commission he expected. My client was surprised to be told that the accountant didn't want a commission, even a sum donated to a charity of his choice. My client then offered to reciprocate, only to be told that he was welcome to but don't feel obliged to.

Why would the accountant want to pass referrals to the financial advisor without being rewarded for his efforts, either in terms of commission or reciprocal referrals? The answer is very simple. By referring his clients to the best financial advisor for their needs, he is providing them with the best service possible, and that was all he was interested in.

Don't try to prejudge other people's motives, or to expect everyone to respond to the same incentives. Get to know the people in your network as individuals and interact with each of them in the way that they would best respond to. You'll get much a much better response as a result.