Do you want to increase your number of sustainable opportunity pipelines for your business? That is the goal of every referral partnership. But, even the most simple referral partnerships fail to get off the ground. They fail so often that many entrepreneurs avoid cultivating them and avoid serving them. Yet, if you successfully develop even one strategic partnership, you'll have an edge that few if any of your competitors have.

And I'm telling you it can be easily done. You need to start by understanding why most referral partnerships fail.

The most common reasons referral partnerships fail is a combination of setting lofty expectations while offering no clear framework of exchange.

You usually have two failed professionals coming together to try again. They usually pull the same failing moves, to experience the same failing results. Behind every failed referral partnership, are lofty expectations and unproven, inexperienced partners. Usually one or both who has never researched, seen nor has ever been shown a successful, sustainable way to go nurture the relationship.

They have no frame of reference, or successful experience with referral partnerships. And therein lies both the rub and opportunity. You can either train them, expect from them, or design a relationship that will serve you both where you are at in the present moment.

So, how do you fix this?

Indiscriminately training a referral partner is a loser's bet. Instead, give the untrained a meaningful starting point that's easy to do first. Then build momentum and trust in phases. Use smaller successes as triggers for deeper investments. Here's how to go about it.

Step 1. Reset your expectations to a realistic point closer to the floor than the ceiling.

You need to have realistic expectations from people with no frame of reference or formal training when it comes to serving your needs. The truth is many entrepreneurs mistakenly expect amateurs to operate like elite professionals. Our expectations are always at the ceiling. We get out there and expect a triple A player to perform like Babe Ruth for us. It almost never happens. And we blame the players instead of designing a better game.

Get your head on straight. Instead of chasing the imaginary potential future opportunities, you can go after low hanging fruit that's in front of you now. Once you can perceive what can be realistically achieved, you can design a partnership that ensures your success.

Step 2. Ask them for something that is easy to give you.

There are usually two things of value that are easy to give in business. One of them is direct access to or distribution to an email list. The other is a series of introductions to the most important people in your partner's network.

Lead the engagement and offer to pay, draft, design, and send a co-branded email offer out to your collective email lists. Run a simple give away campaign, where you supply the give-away item. If you're doing all the heavy lifting, offering the prize and all they have to do supply their email list, then they're likely to say yes. This increases the likelihood of this arrangement getting executed and paying off sooner.

Yes, this means you'll do more of the work, but you'll walk away with a larger email list and fresh contacts too. This also means you can choose the platform (yours), control the message, and reach out as often as you like.

Step 3. Use triple A players to get access to the real influential pros.

Ask your partner who their top 10 most important or influential people are in their network and the reasons those people made the cut. Review the stories, and choose the three people you feel most relevant to your plans. Request an introduction to each one on separate occasions. This is a timeless classic tactic that still works well today.

Once you have a warm introduction, you can request a casual coffee meeting with the other party and rinse and repeat the tactic if you wish, or assess the new contact's potential to be a better referral partner for you. They probably know more about what they're doing, or have a more valuable playbook and database in the first place.

Step 4. Invest in the professionals.

Invest in more elaborate partnerships with professionals who have the potential to give you a 10x return on your time and energy. Hint: these are few in number.

Simply expecting results or thinking you'll train up a partner are expensive and all too common ways to lose. To win, design a game that asks more of you than your partner, and asks them for what is easy to provide. This creates a true sustainable pipeline of opportunities for your business going forward.