When I refer a colleague, some of whom I know better than others, to a client or other executive, I want to be sure I am doing the right thing. If I don't know the consultant well, should I make the referral with caveats or not at all?
The strength of our networks is strongly tied to who we can refer when we don't have the skills or time to provide services ourselves. The value of our network to a client is how strong those referrals are. If our referral base is weak, we do ourselves and our clients a disservice. The trick to using a strong network is to know when to refer and when to defer.
Each referral has value along several dimensions. First, technical skills and experience. How broad is the consultant's experience base, in how many different industries have they worked, and what certifications or other third party endorsement do they hold? Second, consulting skills. Do they have emotional intelligence, can they communicate well, are their engagement process skills of high quality, and do they have business acumen and insight? Third, ethics and professionalism. Do they follow a rigorous Code of Ethics like IMC's, are they sensitive to the fact or appearance of conflicts of interest, and would you trust your best clients to their care? Are any of these weak or missing in your potential referral? Consider whether this weakness disqualify someone from being referred.Tip:
Make a specific list of consultants you would consider referring. Now, score each along the above criteria. Whatever rubric you use, clarify any data you are not sure about (e.g., you know someone's technical skills well but are not sure about their general business acumen). By whatever criteria you set a minimum qualification, how many are in your "acceptable" referral network now? Probably not as many as you thought, would like to have, or are fully valuable to your clients. Time to selectively build your network. © 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA