A client called me today and asked if they could bounce a problem off me even if it wasn’t sales related.

When a client asks a question that doesn’t have anything to do with what you sell, YOU ARE THERE! You have attained RESOURCE status. You are no longer a salesperson or vendor. You have no competition. They trust your judgment. So, your answer should always be, “Sure! What’s up?”

So, this client develops partner relationships so that he and his partners can sell related products to the same customer by referring each other. Insurance agents partner with financial advisors. Painters partner with roofers. Real estate agents partner with mortgage brokers. So, this client heard that one of his partners was actually telling people that some of the advice that my client gives was bad advice and the partner was actually suggesting alternatives even though my client was an expert in his field and his partner wasn’t even good at it.

I suggested that he read How I Refer. I suggested that he pay very close attention to the paragraph that starts, “If I know…” Then I told him that if one of my partners ever did it to me, I’d stop referring him immediately. I’d unrefer him from everybody that I’d ever referred him to and if anyone ever asked me about him, I’d share my mother’s advice and ask them if they needed a referral to someone that does what they do.

Interesting thing is that I know all the players in this case. My client is absolutely an expert at what they do and his partner is good at what he does, but sucks at what my client does. Incidentally, my client is much more established than his partner. Makes about ten times as much money as his partner. So, who do you think is gonna lose the most here?

The one thing that I didn’t tell my client is whether or not to tell his partner that he was ending the relationship and/or why. I didn’t see that there was anything to be gained by telling the partner that he was a stupid piece of garbage.

Here’s the questions.

If you’re my client, should you tell the partner?

If you’re the partner, should you be told?

Should the world know?

6 thoughts on “Loyalty

  1. This is a tough one. The instant reaction is to call and tell off the partner! But as I have learned it is more than just proving someone wrong or making yourself feel good. The correct business move is like Rick says and just stop referring that person. Our company has built a whole referral team. If someone doesn’t do I great job at what they do or does something to hurt the referral team they are removed and replaced with someone better. Not only better the best at what they do. Telling others or that person what you really think only hurts your company in the long run. People love to talk about negative news so we don’t feed into it. But once the partner finds out that your are referring someone else (If they ever do) than that the time to talk about it because they started the conversation. Good blog Rick because I am sure this happens to everyone at some point in the referral business.

  2. Joe, I’m proud that you are a client. This is perhaps one of the most thoughtful, insightful and professional comments that I’ve ever seen. Thank you!

  3. a subtle question like: “Did I hear correctly that……???” Even partners need an education every now and then. Once the partner realizes the error of his ways imagine what he’ll do to get back in good graces……That’s when you decide where you head with your relationship. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer!!

  4. Dan, Another excellent suggestion. Tactful, yet effective. Isn’t it great how much collective knowledge there is when we all share?

  5. Hello Rick, Great blog. Great comments from Joe and Dan. In this imperfect world everyone has developed to who they are today because of their heredity, life experiences, and most importantly the thoughts they allow to reside in their mind. Sometimes this leads to behavior that may not enhance the attainment of success. I am seeing a trend toward partnership networking in the groups I am involved with. It is a great idea to work together to help share resources and strengths. However, this concept of partnership networking demands that all partners are reputable, have good character, are excellent at the service they provide and how they provide, and most of all each partner must be willing to live up to the expectations of the members of the network. Each member must be completely honest with each other regarding positive or negative behavior.Regarding the subject matter above I believe it is incumbent on your client to address the issue head on with a professional critical approach. If the client and his partner are truly partners, then your client owes an explanation to the partner to explain the expectations of the partnership. It is assumed that the partnership is in adherence with the definition of a partnership and doesn’t violate the laws of nature or bring harm to others.I believe that a true partner should be advised that something they are doing or not doing isn’t working out. Our responsibility as partners is to help one another improve. If after the behavior is brought to the individuals’ attention and there is no change then it is appropriate to let that individual know that they may not be referred any more unless the behavior is changed. As a leader in two referral groups I always ask the members of the team to let me know how am I doing in my leadership position. I encourage and want feedback both positive and negative so that I can get better. How else would one know if you are doing a good job or not? So in conclusion,I recommend that your client meet with the partner and address the expectations of the partnership and let him know that speaking poorly of a partner goes against the principles you would expect in a partnership. Mark Paskell

  6. I like Dan’s suggestion. Sometimes it’s important (when the client is in a position of greater influence) to educate the referral partner. Everyone makes mistakes and not everyone has as much experience in business as your client does. I’d suggest giving the referral partner a strike, let them apologize and clean up the mess they made. Then, move on. Your client, I presume, invested a lot of time in developing this relationship with this referral partner. Maybe it’s worth taking the time to give the person a chance to fix it.

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