The best thing about having a referral network is that you can surround yourself with people from a diverse set of industries. This can come in handy when you are looking to refer a friend to someone in your network, or when you need an unbiased sounding board. Asking advice from only people in your industry can leave you with an opinion that may be very similar to your own.
Additionally, inviting your network to share their advice or opinions about matters in their wheelhouse can help you get acquainted with their subject-matter knowledge and attitude, which makes it easier to refer them to people in your life.
Consider the following suggestions when asking people in your network for advice:
- Avoid sensitive topics with members of your network. Try not to bring up anything politically charged, anything too personal, or something that may make someone uncomfortable. Making someone uncomfortable is an easy way to make it unlikely that someone will give you advice again.
- Ask questions they are likely to have qualified answers for. Asking someone questions or for advice on a subject that they know nothing about can put them on the spot and make them uncomfortable.
- Let them do the talking. Don’t interrupt or try to sway their advice in a way that is convenient for you. Asking them for their opinion is about letting them actually give it. People won’t appreciate you talking over them, and will be able to tell if you are uninterested in hearing what they have to say.
- Be present in the conversation, and respond appropriately. When you ask someone for their advice on a matter, pay attention to what they are telling you. Your connection is giving you their time to answer your questions and give you suggestions that they think will help you. If you do not respect their time appropriately, they will be less likely to give you time in the future.
- Don’t try to get free services from someone in your network. If you hope to have an hour-long conversation with a tax professional about filing your taxes, don’t book a session under the guise of asking for free advice. A quick question or two in your colleague’s area of expertise is fine, but more than that and you may cross the line into asking for free service. Knowing when you are crossing that line is key to having a strong relationship.
- Keep the person who you asked for advice updated. After someone gives you advice, use the subject as an opportunity to catch up with them, thank them for their advice, and let them know what you plan to do. This is a great opportunity to keep them informed and get additional opinions or advice.