If you have not had a successful referring alliance partnership in a while, you may be asking yourself what you are doing wrong. But in fact, it might not be you. Oftentimes, the problems stem from what the other person or company is or isn’t doing.

When proposed business alliances don’t produce mutual referrals, it is disappointing and frustrating. However, according to research we have done on successful and not-so-successful alliances, it often seems to come down to a few clear reasons for failure. Before you throw in the towel on referring relationships with other professionals, it may be worthwhile to address these keys to failure in order to improve your results.

If your strategic alliance partnerships are not working, it is almost always due to one of the following three reasons.

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1. The wrong professional

You may be attempting to have a referring alliance with the wrong professional. Some people do not have the propensity to refer their clients to other professionals; they are slow to trust, or are solely focused on their own deliverables. These alliances will likely never work. Just because a professional has a client base of people that are a fit for you and your services does not mean that the professional will be proactive in sharing you with those clients. It is time to take these people off your list and find others.

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2. The wrong message

If you have not clearly shared and described what you do and why you are unique with your potential alliances, they may never have a reason to mention you to someone else. A general description of all you do may not be memorable enough. You need to quickly build credibility, establish areas of specialty and show that you have expertise that their clients need. But moreover, you need to sound unique and stand out in a clear and compelling way.  Sometime during your meeting, the potential strategic alliance should be able to say, “You know, I have a client who really needs to talk to you.” The description of what you do and why your firm is unique needs to stand out.

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3. The wrong firm

Research shows that more than ever, alliance referrals come from firms that are themselves actively seeking new clients. When a firm is stagnant and mature (albeit successful), they are not necessarily creating new relationships, meeting with prospects and taking on new clients. But when a firm is in the growth mode, they are meeting with new clients and are more likely to have many things to share with them, including referrals. Find a firm that is focused on finding new clients, because they often have immediate opportunities to ask about other professionals and make referrals to you.  In other words, look for growing companies who will become great alliances.

Ultimately, give yourself a chance for success by finding the right people, the right message for them and the right firms to work with. This may require some small changes to the partners you seek, the willingness to walk away from unproductive relationships and a little bit of time to craft the best words to use. It will make for highly profitable, win-win relationships.