Lillian  D. Bjorseth

Article Summary:

How to properly thank someone who has given you a referral.

Referrals: How To Properly Thank The Person Who Gave You The Lead

Many people say “thank you” when you send them a referral, a job lead or connect them with someone they want to meet. However, just as many forget to keep you in the loop as the lead matures and, especially, when they get the sale or the job. It’s as if they think once was enough.

My friend Joann’s experience is a good example. Several years ago, she passed on a solid, lucrative job lead to her friend who was in transition. She got the perfunctory “thank you.” Imagine Joann’s surprise when she picked up a business newspaper and saw her friend’s picture prominently displayed with a blurb about her new position. Never another thank-you, handwritten note, flowers … much less an offer of breakfast or lunch. Nothing, that is, until last month when her friend, who again is in transition, called to ask for help in her job search! Needless to say, Joann is not as motivated to help this time.

It’s not that people expect you to spend money to say “thank you.” What they would like is to be treated courteously and respectfully for the time and effort they expended helping you. Simple, occasional updates help show your appreciation.

These guidelines may help you with your “thank yous.”

  • Immediately follow up with a short e-mail/telephone note of thanks when you receive a job or sales lead or any other referral that eliminates another step in the six degrees of separation.

  • After your first interaction or after the first meeting, again send a short e-mail to inform the person who made the referral that you have connected with your target.

  • If the process is prolonged, occasionally inform the person making the referral of your progress. That person, by the way, may be just the right one to intervene on your behalf and get the wheels moving again. And, they might do it on their own, depending on your relationship.

  • Absolutely, unequivocally inform the person who gave you the lead when the sale is made or the job is offered/accepted! It’s hard to think of any reason that would you keep you mum at this point.

  • If you landed employment or the sale is substantial, consider sending a small gift such as flowers, a box of (good) golf balls, a restaurant gift certificate etc. It is vital that the gift match the other person’s interest … so you may need to do some research. Suggest breakfast or lunch if you know the person well enough and think she/he would be comfortable with that offer. Generally, don’t suggest dinner as that can have a questionable connotation, particularly if the person is of the opposite sex.

  • Optional: If the referral never pans out, you might after several months wish to notify the person giving it that nothing conclusive happened.

I leave you with this example: One of the prevalent themes at an IT seminar I attended is that technology people are usually far better at dealing with data than with people. One of the panelists recalled how in graduate school he was given an assignment that assumed he had been promoted and had to prioritize his new inbox. He recalled being soundly reprimanded for choosing to put three congratulatory notes at the bottom of the list and not respond to them.

I hope you know better!

Lillian D. Bjorseth, according to the The Chicago Tribune, is a “networking expert”. The Association Forum of Chicagoland calls her “the business networking authority”. She’s a speaker, trainer and author who helps entrepreneurs through Fortune 100 employees build high-value relationships by honing their business development, business networking and communication skills. For more information, visit

Read all advice by Lillian D. Bjorseth; Find more Business Etiquette experts

More advice on Business Etiquette
» Effective Voice Mail
» What To Say On Your Voice Mail
» all Business Etiquette articles