Guest Column | July 17, 2018

4 Tips For Successful Referral Relationships

By Daniel Steyskal, Trapezoid Business Services

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A VAR is not only a person who provides a POS and makes sure it works consistently; they are the trusted advisor a far-too-busy merchant will ask for recommendations for various services — specifically those dealing with the flow of money through a business. Lawyers, accountants, credit card processors, and other professionals know this and often reach out to VARs looking to get access to their book of business.

However, too many people have reached out talking about how much money I could make from my clients if I would only push their services. After a few mistakes that resulted in major headaches and some angry clients, I learned anyone seeking a referral relationship must do the following.

  1. Communicate The Value Of Their Services Beyond Additional Revenue

At least twice a month, if not twice a week, I get a call from a merchant services rep telling me how Big League their processing services are and how some service will make me a lot of money if I just get my clients’ processing statements to them. Not a single one of these reps has ever given me a value proposition of how services will be fundamentally better for my clients, provided a roadmap of how transition will occur, explained how those costs will be handled (and there are ALWAYS transition costs with merchant processing), or presented a clear idea of how inevitable technical support issues will be handled.

I don’t take these calls anymore, but they are distinct from a value proposition given by my CCTV and Security Camera partner. I had already been burned by two companies, but Safeway CCTV (the best in the tristate area) said, “I will promise you that every one of your clients will know to call ME and only ME to handle any issues with the camera system and if you do get a call here is my personal cell phone and you can conference me in to any call you get.” That value proposition sold me six years ago, and 65 locations later I try to get clients on the West Coast to fly out Safeway’s Team as they are worth the extra money every single time.

  1. Be Willing To Participate In A No-Risk Trial

When one recommends a vendor, they are ultimately responsible for all the grief that comes from that vendor. Whether it is reasonable or not, clients are used to no questions asked returns from Amazon and other merchants, creating the expectation that if a product or service does not deliver as expected, they can get a full refund.

With a new referral partner, the product or service could be amazing, but the service and follow-up support so abysmal that whatever was offered is basically non-functional. I want to work with people who have confidence in their product — so much wo that it would be inconceivable anyone would want a return, so they have a similar policy to Amazon. All Sales Final does not work in the modern marketplace, so if your referral partners follow that practice, expect clients to be less than happy with your future invoices after you referred them someone who cost them money and solved nothing.

  1. Personally Own Any Problems That Arise

“Well it’s your client so figure out how to make it work,” said the merchant services rep who sold services on an incompatible platform to a small merchant. I wasted hours with this rep, telling him exactly what he needed to set up and the exact equipment that needed to be provided, but a week later I learned that he told the merchant, “Your POS guy said he’d take care of it.”

Thankfully this was a client I worked with for a bit over six years and he was thinking this rep was a hustler, so he was promptly told to take a walk. But now I tell every referral partner the hourly rate for supporting their solutions if they are unable. Unfortunately, even large organizations with technical support lines will make a client wait for a solution, if not bounce between departments while they avoid solving the problem. Make sure anyone you refer will own any issues that arise so you’re not doing unpaid consulting or IT work for no pay.

  1. Work To Make Sure Referrals Are Reciprocal

Professionals who want to work with your clients already work with many people who don’t love their POS system. You’re sharing, so why make this a one way street? Even with an existing network of professionals, if you aren’t getting two referrals a year work to see how you can or find someone who is a better fit for your organization.

Many local networking groups incorporate these rules to some degree and can be a great source of reciprocal referral relationships. Those of us who prefer to have breakfast at home can incorporate these rules into relationships started on LinkedIn, at conferences, or in the natural progression of business. Under either model strong relationships will provide a consistent source of clients, as well as ensure every one of their needs is met by a professional operating at your level.

About The Author

Trapezoid Business Services is solely owned and operated by Daniel Steyskal. Daniel has been a POS provider and business solutions consultant since 2008 working with small to mid-sized businesses and national franchises. When he's not making the impossible possible for his clients, Daniel enjoys cooking, gaming, and volunteering in his community. Find out more at