Who Moved My Referrals?

Imagine for a moment: what if you placed the same emphasis on referrals as the other items in your sales process? Where could this take you? To help gain clients and sales, your sales marketing plans might already use some combination of advertising, seminars, lead generation, cold calls, and professional networking, etc.

Salespeople rarely use their client referral
network as a main part of their sales marketing plan.

  • When was the last time you asked for a referral?
  • When was the last time a salesperson asked you for a referral?
  • When was the last time you asked your client for specific names and contact information of people who could benefit from your product or service?
  • Do you or your company have a specific method of operation to follow for referrals?
  • Are you too shy to ask?
  • Is your self-esteem such that it troubles you to ask?

Almost every day I see examples of this unfortunate mindset with my own sales coaching students or at the companies for which I consult. RARELY even do my clients ask me for referrals!

Melody, a client of mine, asked “Chuck, which of your clients would benefit…?” As I pondered her request for referrals (again, a request I normally don’t receive, even from my clients), it struck me that her service could help many. We ended up scheduling TWO separate hour-long phone appointments to cover all the information that fulfilled her request. But just as importantly, Melody did two things: not only did she ask me the question, but she had also EARNED the right to do so. I could trust my clients to Melody—she had earned that trust through her credentials and her professionalism. I gave her a green light to use my name as the referral source.

Consider the implications of that single question “Who do you know who could benefit from my product or service?” Melody added more names to her database, which meant more new prospects to contact, and an increase in business. Take it a step further: what if she then earned the right to ask that question from each new contact I gave her? Could you imagine the exponential growth of her opportunities database?

The Importance of a Referral-Based Marketing Network

Recently one of my Executive Sales Clients sent me an e-mail asking about my thoughts on referrals. I felt his questions were the basis for a great discussion and learning environment. Here is our discussion:

Executive Sales Client:

“I am working on refining my procedure for asking for referrals. What I want to do is be able to paint a picture for the existing client of the prospect I am seeking, so that someone specific pops into his or her mind. If I ask for just anyone, that usually means no one.”

“I feel I need to tailor the type of referral according to the client I am speaking with–I don’t want to paint a picture of a 45-year old to someone who is 65, and vice versa. This is what I have come up with. I want feedback and additional ideas.”

  • Age – “My ideal client is ____.” The age will be similar to the client’s age.
  • Family – “My ideal client is an empty nester,” or, “My ideal client is someone just like you who is beginning to plan for their children’s college.”
  • Savers – “My ideal client has saved money along the way.”
  • “My ideal client may have a 401(k) from a previous employer,” either due to a job transition or retirement, based on who I am talking to.
  • “My ideal client is approaching retirement, or is in retirement, and is addressing their estate plan,” or,
  • “My ideal client is in a professional position similar to yours.” (i.e. real estate agent, teacher, executive, etc.) Once again, I base this on the circumstances of the person to whom I am speaking.
  • “Do you see how I am trying to tailor the picture to each individual client?  What other traits can I paint?  How else can I do this?”

Business Coach Chuck’s Response:

These questions are a great foundation for a good discussion.  I have no clear cut answer of what will work for you specifically, yet I do want to share a couple of viewpoints and see if I can trigger something that works for you.

Earning the right to ask for referrals should be an ongoing strategy for any salesperson, regardless of industry.  My personal belief is that it does not boil down to a set specific set of questions.  I do believe that a set method needs to be in place at all times, whether you ask for the referral, as stated in your specific statements listed, or you make it a point to include the referral request in all your marketing pieces, client communication, etc.  All of these marketing methods fall under creating T.O.M.A. – Top of Mind Awareness:  Does your client think of you when they are ready to enter your industry to make a purchase?

My coaching suggestion would be:
START TODAY! Ask for referrals at every point of contact with each and every client AND potential client.  As I have said, the sales industry consists of the 95%ers and the 5%ers.   95% of salespeople struggle and the other 5% are gaining traction every day by working smarter, making more money, AND doing it in less time.  The 5%ers are asking for referrals –ALL the time.

Answer this question:
When was the last time a salesperson asked YOU for a referral? When was the last time YOU asked for a referral?  We, as salespeople, can certainly stand to make improvements in this part of our own personal sales process!

Looking over the statements and questions from my Executive Sales Student, I see where he is going with this: lots of planning, lots of thought.  He’s planning the best way to leave his clients with a pre-preemptive strike: to remind them to refer other prospects to him.  He states: “If I ask for just anyone, anyone usually means no one.”  Know this: asking one time is just part of the process.  5%ers will always be asking, either in a direct or an indirect manner.

“It seems that I need to tailor the picture to the individual client.”  As I think about this statement, I wonder: is this a preconceived notion of his, based on his personality style and strengths?  Think of the salespeople you buy from—would you want them to give you something tailored like this, to help you think of specific referrals?  This line of thinking might pigeonhole him into something that works for his personality style, but which won’t work with his clients.

Here is another way to look at it. If he came across a “Socializer” client or one who has strong social skills, they would open up their entire database to him and not concern themselves with the specifics he might be looking for.  This method would certainly add numbers to his personal sales database.  He would then implement the “80/20 rules of communication” as taught in the SalesMastery course.  The 80/20 rule allows salespeople to handle large numbers of referrals and contacts efficiently.

Seven Tips For a Better Referral Network:

  1. Be “ReferABLE”—Do you earn the right to ask for referrals?  Are you REALLY distinctive in your sales and communication processes with your clients?  Do you build an impenetrable wall around your clients that makes them competitor-proof?  Do you MAKE people want to do business with you?  Would YOU do business with YOU?
  2. Use the Direct Approach:—Always ask the question outright at the end of a call or appointment.  Remember the Colombo close . . . as you’re walking out of the room and you reach for the door knob and you ask: “Oh . . . by the way, who do you know that might benefit . . .” Or use this same question when you are about to conclude a sales call.Salespeople who build true intimacy with their clients can ask this question all day long.  Salespeople who lack intimacy-building skills might find ways NOT to ask this question, because they are not truly connected with their clients.
  3. Use the Indirect Approach:—Utilize different things and have some fun!
    How about these ideas:

    • On every piece of mail that you send to a client, include a Post-It note asking for a referral.
    • Hold a client appreciation get-together and give a short speech telling your appreciation of your clients and asking for referrals.
    • Send very important clients a gift, like a pen and pencil set, and include a special personalized note in the gift wrapping.

    Just the other day in Fort Worth, Texas, I asked 72 people for referrals at one time and I didn’t even open my mouth.  My seminar evaluation form contains an indirect referral request.  This specific event fostered over ten new referrals, equaling ten new additions to my database.

    Another sales student of mine, who is somewhat introverted, has a questionnaire that he sends to his clients by postal mail or e-mail.  Buried in the questionnaire is a place for his clients to respond to this question:  “Who do you know who might . . .”

  4. Network the ENTIRE World—In Megatrends, John Naisbitt states “You can network the entire world just by knowing five people.”  I believe it—do you?  I actually have some former clients that call me when they need a specific contact in a specific city.  Within that network as you proceed to build it, ask and continue to ask each person for referrals.
  5. Market Yourself Shamelessly—If you don’t get tenacious about marketing yourself, who will?  Don’t be embarrassed! Get out there and let the world know what you do!  Many times we look for that perfect environment in order to ask for a referral.  There will never be a perfect situation—so be shameless and ask.
  6. Look at EACH Contact as a Lifelong Relationship—No matter what!  Each person, regardless of how you connected, should be entered into your database with full contact information including e-mail address, date of birth, and hobbies or passions.  When you create lifelong positive relationships, you further earn the right to asking for referrals.
  7. Deliver Twice What You Promise—Consistent delivery of more than expected draws new clients and influence past clients to provide you referrals. But remember, you still have to ask for them— your clients are not looking into a crystal ball and seeing you telling them that you would like a referral.Okay, you have read the article— now what? Are you going to let the information sit like a book in the bookcase collecting dust?  Or will you take my personal challenge which I bequeath to you?  YOU must take part or all of this information and put it to use.  Start implementing it TODAY and you will be working smarter, making more, all the while having more time to enjoy it.

A “Who Moved My Referrals?” Follow-Up

From Scott:

I did get to listen to your “Who Moved My Referrals” call from the online recording. Referrals are huge.  My question is how to best contact a referral.  I start with a letter, and follow up with a call.  When I leave a voicemail, no one returns my call.  Should I just keep hanging up on their voicemail until I reach them?  With caller ID, I don’t want to become a stalker!

From Chuck:

That is a great question and one that is asked often. The answer simply lies in my “I Have Them Right Where I Want Them Program.”  For the sake of time I am not going to bore you with all the success stories yet know this. You MUST go into the referrals KNOWING ahead of time they will NOT answer your calls or e-mails. Period. At least I have them right where I want them.

So I almost NEVER do more than one phone call or e-mail. Yes, I know about all that crazy talk about persistence. Yet  if I place a second call or a second e-mail a couple of interesting dynamics happen. First, it appears that I am chasing them.  Not my style. I’d rather ATTRACT them to me.  Second, more calls and more e-mails just means that I am just like the rest of the sales pack.

I, on purpose, will set a sales distinction BY NOT CHASING the client. I will also set another sales distinction by using my #1 sales weapon:  the Jim Rohn Treasury of Quotes book.  Please read my article titled “T.I.P.S. – To Ensure Prompt Sales” that provides more specifics.

Out-Of-The-Box Referral Marketing Ideas

Have the referrer call the referral first and alert them to your presence and COACH the referrer to say that “Scott will be treating you with the utmost professional courtesies that he has shown to me in my experiences with him . . .”  Or “Scott is EXTREMELY busy and will only have a few moments to spare when y’all hook up . . .” thus killing the time objection before it even comes up.

Lastly, it is all about getting their attention like no other salesperson has—EVER.  Such as my last resort “SHOE” method.  If all else fails, I package up a shoe (usually purchased at Goodwill) and one shoe only. Not the pair:  save the other one for someone else.  I send it to them UPS or Fed Ex.  Inside the shoe box I place a letter or a note over the shoe that simply states:

Trouble Getting My Foot In The Door

Of course, the shoe box must contain your business card, Main Point Card or a Fast Facts Profile.

Try something different and fun instead of hoping, wishing, and praying that they return your call. Know this:  the more referrals you develop, the more time you’ll be spending on the ones who call you back and set appointments versus the ones that are not calling you back. Good Selling!


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