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Jacky Sherman

Northampton & Milton Keynes' Referral Marketing Specialist

07970 638857


What Can A Relay Race Teach Us About Referral Marketing?

Surprisingly, there are a lot of similarities ...



Referral marketing is about getting others to pass your message on to your ideal clients. A metaphor I often use for this is to liken it to passing the baton in a relay race ...

Dropping the baton with referral marketing means your message isn't getting across!

Dropping the baton with referral marketing means your message isn't getting across!

copyright: olegdudko / 123rf stock photo

To state the obvious, in a relay race, if the baton does not get over the line then no matter how fast you ran, the race is lost. So in referral marketing if your message doesn't reach your prospects then no matter how good you are, you will not get the business.

So this week I thought I'd look at the advice of one particular coach called Dennis Grady. It's designed for aspiring relay teams but will work just as well when it comes to referral marketing:

  1. Select your team with the best runners who commit to the team and that may not be the fastest sprinter. Trust is essential, and each of you has got to know that the others are putting in the same effort and want this as much as you.

    In referral marketing, you want to collaborate with the people who have the best contacts with your potential clients. However, if they are takers rather than givers, they may never share your contacts with you. Of course, your partner needs to know the sort of people you want to meet, but equally importantly they must be someone who likes to work collaboratively and will commit to your relationship.

  2. Learn and practice together. While the basic techniques in passing the baton are the same, in reality each runner has their own stride and idiosyncrasies that need to be taken into account in setting out the tactics, running order, etc. Some simple examples might be left or right handedness, who runs the bend best, who's more inspired to come from the back.

    So in referral marketing, understanding each other's message and being able to relay it on to others in your own style without losing it's power depends on each person's knowledge and preferred style.

    A common phenomenon I see in my workshops is that people assume their product and services are evident to others when in fact, they are utterly confused or have the wrong impression. Learning together and practising how to give your message stops that confusion and ensure a smooth handover to the client.

Dennis then had three pieces of advice to apply during the actual race:

  1. Never leave the [transfer] zone without the baton. Just because an exchange isn't perfect is no reason to give up. The outgoing runner should slow down if necessary as a poor exchange beats no exchange any day or night.

    What I'd take from this is to check that your partner has received a clear message. It may take more than one conversation with them to be proficient at this. Be prepared to slow down and try something small before going for the big one.

  2. Always finish the race. If the baton is dropped, pick it up and run on. Don't just stand there and argue about who is to blame.

    If your partner tries to introduce you and fails to convince the prospect to see you, don't get into the blame game. Get some feedback and work together on how to refine your message, deal with objections and questions, or identify more clearly the need for your services in the first place.

  3. Timing is really everything. In relays we are talking hundredths of a second. Don't fall asleep at the switch by leaving too late; don't jump the gun by leaving too early.

    Now we're not talking seconds in referral marketing, in fact a common mistake is to ask for too much too early. First build your relationship and the length of time that takes will depend on your partners behavioural style and circumstances. However, once you've agreed to collaborate, strategise when the best time is to introduce you.

    Lastly Grady gave this wonderful example. The outgoing runner was talking to someone and didn't realize the race had started until his teammate went whizzing by. His solution? "A substitution for that runner is the only cure". I'll leave you to work that one out!

Overall this advice reminded me that in referral marketing, as in running a relay, you will never get the results you want unless your partners are as skilled as you.

So get into training now with your team and pass on each other's message with the slickness of an Olympic finalist and win gold together!

Until next time ...


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More about Jacky Sherman ...

I help people build and maintain productive working relationships both with their work colleagues and with a wider network to win more business. I do this by combining my skills in coaching, mediation and training with my extensive experience in senior management.

What I love most about my work is when my clients get those a-ha moments because I know they have seen for themselves the way that they want to move forward. Then they will achieve their ambitions.

Helping people who are having challenges with their working relationships gives me enormous pleasure. It was my privilege when working in health care to see how people working together can make the impossible seem easy and accomplish miracles as a result.

So helping people build or restore strong relationship with their colleagues makes even the hardest work easier, alleviates distress for the individual and reduces problems for the whole organisation.

In all this work trust is an essential ingredient to winning business so most of my work comes through referrals. Referrals come through strong business relationships so it was a natural extension for me to work with Ascentiv and train others in how to get consistent and predictable referrals from their network.

What a fantastic way to earn a living!


07970 638857


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