When you get a referral, you may wonder what you can do to inspire the referral source to refer even more people to you. You’d think it would help if you rewarded them. And to a point that’s true.

There are a number of factors that can make a big difference in terms of what will be appropriate and what will have the desired effect.  Get it wrong, and the reward can actually backfire, or it will just cost you and won’t do you much good.

Rather than receiving a finder’s fee, for most referral sources, it is more important to be recognised as a person who can direct others to the goods and services provided by skilled, highly competent, trustworthy people. Most people will do more for simple recognition than for money. However, for those who expect a finder’s fee, you, as the recipient of the referral, must know this in advance if you want to keep the relationship healthy, active and profitable.

You will find that different motivators will inspire different members of your referral team, and this is a matter in which understanding the various behavioural styles of people can be helpful.

Below are a few suggestions on how you can show your appreciation – without making a mistake.

For people who are embarrassed by being in the spotlight, even for accolades and applause, they might prefer their rewards low-key and private–perhaps a simple thank you or an evening cruise on your boat, if you are a boat owner. Others may be more highly motivated by an inexpensive but thoughtful gift, like a bottle of wine from a winery near their hometown or a coffee table book about their favourite travel destination. Whatever you give, remember that a gift, however small or inexpensive, creates visibility and builds credibility with your referral source. Try to find out what your referral source likes (favourite foods, hobbies, etc.), and send a gift that is personalized to her tastes.

You can also simply send a thank-you card. This is always a nice gesture – a handwritten thankyou card makes a great impression, especially in this age of electronic communication. Be sure to write a personalised note that mentions what you’re thanking your referral source for.

A commission based on a percentage could range from 10% and up. And a flat fee commission could be any amount.  This can also come in the form of gift cards and gift certificates in a price range which is reasonable – not too much, and not too small for it to be considered an insult – or worse – a sign that it doesn’t pay to refer.

So how much is enough, and how much would be too much?  This can be tricky, and several things need to be considered: like whether you commit to giving a specific gift or commission every time, and if not, what you will do for follow-up referrals to avoid disappointment.  Random rewards also can easily backfire – if you provide a reward once but then not the next time that could be off putting to some. Remember that one person’s treasure could be another person’s disappointment…and disappointing a referral partner or source is something you should definitely try to avoid.

Offer a referral. Giving your referral source a referral is a wonderful way to build your relationship. By helping build your source’s business, you create a debt of gratitude that will encourage your source to respond in kind. You may invite a referral source to a networking event. Introducing her to other businesspeople you know gives your source an opportunity to meet others in your target market and may also provide new business opportunities.

Even a brief mention of a referral source in your newsletter can pay dividends down the road, including the opportunity for your source to reciprocate with his newsletter.