Referrals and References: What’s the Difference?

Did you know that there is actually a difference between referrals and references?   By definition, a reference is a person that will validate your claims be it a resume or as a past customer.  A referral however, is a person that recommends one to another.   The difference is one is passive and one is active.  A reference waits for a call to confirm claims while a referral actively reaches out to people on your behalf.  I hope to help you understand how to operate each one in the most effective manner. There are two different types of references, business references  and personal references.  A business reference is a customer (present or past) that makes a statement about your product or service.  Although the intent is to be a positive reference, the reference is often not worded in a way that benefits your business.  Many will write a “happy happy” letter stating that they had a great experience with us.  I want more, I want to use this reference to facilitate more sales because it speaks to the need we, as a company, fill for our customers. I have frequently written references for customers to approve/modify/sign to be able to ensure that what I “need” as a business reference comes across to potential customers.    What I mean by “need” is simple, and not anything illicit or dishonest.  To be effective the reference needs to relay to potential customers what we do as a company that makes them want to do business with us. Personal references can make or break you when applying for a job.  I learned long ago that what I thought people would say might not be exactly what was said during a reference check.  Choice of words are very important. You need to know what a reference is going to say about you before you list them as a reference.  How do you do this?  Have a friend call them posing as a company, using them as a reference for you and see what they say.  The outcome might surprise you. Referrals are active participants in your success, either as a person or as a company.  Consider a situation where you want to apply to a new job, and you have someone at that company that you know refer you to the hiring manager.  Do you think you have more weight than someone simply applying blindly with an online application?  Referrals can open up doors to you that you never thought available.  LinkedIn is a perfect example of a referral network where you can be introduced to people based on your existing relationships. A referral for a business has far greater potential impact on the financial condition of the company.   I recently had an amazing referral that has generated over $300K in potential revenue for our company.  Had this only been a reference, I would never have been able to achieve these results.  So how do you get referrals for your business?  Ask for them.  if you don’t ask, you don’t get them. To conclude,  references and referrals don’t just happen.  A reference or referral will never be given if not deserved.  It’s hard to get good quality references and referrals but the work doesn’t end there. You have to follow up with referrals given to you.  Spend some time looking at your references and your referral program.  Are you getting the most out of them?  They can make or break success. *********************************** Are you going through a job search/job hunt? Are you leading a growing sales team and looking for more “A” Players to round out your team? WE CAN HELP! Just click the link  you need!


Keenan is A Sales Guy Inc’s CEO/President and Chief Antagonist. He’s been selling something to someone for his entire life. He’s been teaching and coaching almost as long. With over 20 years of sales experience, which he’ll tell you he doesn’t give a shit about, Keenan has been influencing, learning from and shaping the world of sales for a long time. Finder of the elephant in the room, Keenan calls it as he sees it and lets nothing or no one go unnoticed.