Many businesses seek the counsel of their most trusted advisors when looking for support whether it be accounting, IT, marketing, HR solutions, or real estate. Many of these referral relationships come from a mutual understanding of trust and respect that has been earned through communication and experience. However, how many times have you really asked a referral partner if they are ready, willing, and able to assist with a potential client? Have you ever interviewed them yourselves?

I will tell you from personal experience myself and dealing with some of the commercial real estate brokers that I have communicated with, clients are not interviewing enough for the job. As we all realize, when the economy has been growing at the rate is has, many businesses are struggled to keep up with demand and retain the right people but that to me is no excuse for not doing the due diligence upfront. Also, many businesses are not saying “no” when they should.

Let’s paint the picture of a example of what I am talking about. You are in business networking group and your commercial roofer is looking at expanding their business and needs a larger industrial property but they aren’t sure if they should lease or buy. You have a commercial realtor in your group but she is employed with a large institutional brokerage and only does office leasing. However, she is able to refer to an industrial team in her office. Unfortunately, that team has over 20 active listings in the Denver market, and doesn’t really have the bandwidth to help this commercial roofer that is looking for about 5,000 SF of space. In this situation, what is the best way to ensure that the commercial roofer isn’t wasting too much time in the initial interview process and is working with the top realtor for their needs?

Despite what industry you are currently working in, these are critical questions to ask after you have determined that you can first trust and and then respect your business colleague based on your introduction and interaction to that point.

What are your core values in doing business?

This question might seem pretty deep but I think it gets to the underlying purpose of why your business associate is successful. It is important to understand that your “trusted” advisor actually believes in their company’s mission and goals. When I talk to potential clients, I am clear in our first conversation that transparency is absolutely part of my integrity. Let me be clear — this is more rare than common in today’s modern business climate. If you don’t have the courage to speak the truth and have crucial conversations, we will not be a good fit!

Do you have the capacity to help me?

This song gets played over and over again. How many times when you have interviewed a business do they default to their resume? Yes — past experience is important but that doesn’t tell me if you currently have the skills and resources to assist now or in the future. Keep in mind that your closure rate means nothing to that one client you have worked with for the last 5 months but now can’t close this transaction (this was a real life example with a large US bank). I would get as many details as possible on their current availability and their plan of attack if hired and what they will bring to the table. This would also be a good time to discuss correspondence from a client relationship standpoint.

What has been the weakness that has challenged you the most in business?

This is always the interview question that everyone wants to avoid but any sophisticated and experienced professional will be able to answer this with no concerns. This is where you can demonstrate your ability to be self-aware and understand your own pain points. If you can’t do this with yourself or your own business, how can you even think to solve the issues for another business? I think its important to remember that we are all human and being authentic is the key to relating to others. I would embrace your flaws as much as possible and use those situations as a story of future success.

What is the desired outcome of our relationship?

While this question might seem transactional, it is meant to see the greater needs between the business and client relationship. I know for many entrepreneurs it is about finding those key individuals that really provide the hose for their sales pipeline. For some clients, they even have multiple future needs that could be discussed as part of your long-term strategy for growth. There could be an opportunity where a client joins your team as a associate or even a vendor. It is best to discuss long-term goals of the relationship at the beginning while it certainly can change throughout the process, it is always better to proceed with an end it mind.

As you continue to hire businesses for your needs, please keep these topics in mind as they will really save time and financial resources moving forward. Also, remember that in order for these business relationships to be sustainable, they need to mutually beneficial to all parties involved. I challenge you to interview more, and dig deeper, as you grow your business!