Are you like over 85% of all salespeople, professionals, and business owners who find acquiring high quality referrals from your customers and clients difficult and frustrating? You’ve heard the sermons about how referrals are the best marketing method there is—and then discovered that few generate enough high quality referrals to actually make referrals a significant part of their marketing plan? Like most, you hear the hype but see few results?
The fault doesn’t lie with you. Rather the problem is the way you’ve been taught to seek referrals. If you are like the vast majority of salespeople, you’ve been taught to “do a good job and ask for referrals.” That’s it. That’s the typical training on how to use “the most important marketing method there is.”
If it is so darn important and effective, why is so little time and attention spent on training people on how to generate referrals?
Frankly, because few have studied the issue and really understand how to generate a large number of high quality referrals. Unlike other parts of the sales process that have been analyzed and studied to death, referral generation has always been assumed a part of the sales process that was uncontrollable. Either you asked for referrals or you didn’t. Either your customer knew someone to refer or they didn’t. Either you got referrals or you didn’t.
Salespeople, managers, and sales trainers have known for decades that the traditional method of referral generation, “do a good job and ask for referrals,” doesn’t work very well. But, they reasoned, there just wasn’t anything that could be done about it—you couldn’t turn referral generation into a disciplined, predictable process like the rest of the sales process, now could you?
Recent research into referrals by others and me has shown that referral generation doesn’t have to be left to chance. It can be and must be a disciplined process in order to work. In fact, most of the mega-producing salespeople have developed, through trial and error, their own process that generates a huge volume of high quality referrals from almost every one of their customers and clients.
Yet, even though a logical, disciplined referral generation process may set the stage for acquiring a large number of high quality referrals from each client, just as with all other aspects of the sales process, your attitude about referrals and your business are key to making the process work.
Converting your sales business to a referral-based model requires you to rethink and rework your mindset. You must become thoroughly immersed in the referral-selling model. Your clients and prospects must believe that your business is built on referrals, and for them to take your statements and proclamations of being referral-based seriously, you must project the professional attitude of a referral-based salesperson. In other words, you must “act the part” to “become the part.”
This acting the part to become the part is more difficult than it may sound. It requires that you completely buy-in to the idea that your business is built on referrals—even if at this point in time you receive few referrals. It requires you to retune your thinking so that everything you do and say conveys your referral-based business.
Why is it so important that you retrain your mind to think as a referral based salesperson? Simply because generating a large number of highly qualified referrals is a process that begins from the moment you first meet a prospect and continues throughout the relationship—hopefully for years. In addition, as mentioned previously, the prospect and client must take your assertions of a referral-based business seriously.
The process of referral generation requires that you constantly plant and water referral seeds in both your clients and prospects. That planting and watering must become part of your nature. You must be able to drop the seeds and then water them smoothly, without any hesitation or clumsiness. This requires a state of mind that is ever mindful of the opportunities that present themselves, as they present themselves.
So, how do you develop this mental attitude? First, and foremost, you must decide that becoming a referral-based salesperson is what you want to do. Many salespeople try to develop a referral-based business in a half-in, half-out manner. They want to be able to pick and choose whom they will present themselves to as referral based and whom they don’t. It doesn’t work that way. They fear that if they project themselves as strictly referral based they will lose the opportunity to take on non-referred clients. This is far from true.
As a matter of fact, presenting yourself as exclusively referral-based will enhance your ability to attract non-referred customers. People want to work with the best. They want to purchase from the leaders in the industry. The more exclusive you become, the more people want to work with you.
Think about the times you’ve passed a jewelry or furniture store whose sign reads “By Appointment Only.” Why require an appointment? Because it works. You want in the store. You want to know what is so exclusive that you have to make an appointment just to see it. Moreover, you wonder if you can afford it. And if you get in and find something you can afford, you buy it. Why? Because it came from that store. Then you tell all your friends about what you bought from such-n-such store and how exclusive the store is, and how special your purchase is.
The same psychology works with selling. The more exclusive you become, the more people want to work with you. Just because you promote yourself as referral only doesn’t mean that you cannot take on non-referred clients. You simply explain to the prospect that even though you work from client referrals, you will be happy to take them on as a client. Even new salespeople with virtually no client base can use this format.
However, this approach will not work for long if you then convey through your words and deeds that your statement was nothing but a lie. Once you establish yourself as referral-based, even when taking on a non-referred customer, you must maintain the referral-based attitude. If you don’t, you come across as a fraud and you immediately lose credibility.
If you cannot or will not commit yourself wholeheartedly to becoming a referral-based salesperson, you are better off simply learning some referral generating techniques and using them within your selling system. Don’t try to mix a referral-based system with a non-referral based system. It doesn’t work.
Secondly, after determining that you want to become a referral-based salesperson, you must change all of your marketing material to reflect your new sales methodology. Change everything. Your business cards, stationary, email signature, marketing fliers, website, everything must reflect your referral-based business. This becomes the point where many salespeople begin to reconsider their choice. They worry that by advertising to the world that they work from referrals, non-referred prospects will pass them by. Again, the psychology of the sale is that the more exclusive you are the more people want to work with you.
When constructing your marketing materials, make sure your statements are bold and straightforward. Referral taglines such as, “I (heart) referrals,” or “I Love Referrals,” simply communicate that you like to get the occasional referral. That isn’t the message you want to communicate. Something more bold such as, “Appointments by Referral Only,” or “Referral Based, Client Centered,” work well.
Not only does your referral statement communicate to your prospects and clients that you are a referral-based salesperson, it also communicates to YOU that you are referral-based. It is a constant reminder to you that your mindset must be that of a referral-based salesperson.
Once you have changed your marketing materials, you must change your discussion with both clients and prospects. Think in terms of referral seeds and watering those seeds. Look for opportunities to remind your clients and prospects that you are referral-based and that you expect referrals. If you follow the techniques and strategies in Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals to insure your client knows that you expect referrals, that they know exactly what a referral for you is, and that you know exactly what the client’s expectations and priorities are in the sale, you can freely plant, water and weed your referrals throughout the sales process without fear of being overbearing or alienating your clients and prospects. However, in order to do this successfully, you must have developed a referral mindset. If you haven’t you’ll sound unsure of yourself, or, worse, insincere.
Develop your referral-based infomercial and then repeat it to yourself so often that it is second nature. Not only does your infomercial communicate your referral-based status to your prospects and clients, it helps to develop your mind. As you think through and develop your infomercial, repeating it over and over to yourself to the point that it truly is a natural part of your thinking, you are convincing yourself of your referral-based business model. You are in the process of selling yourself as you are in the process of preparing to sell your prospects and clients.
A referral-based selling model can be naturally integrated into any selling system. It makes no difference what the product or service, whether you are an outside or inside salesperson, or whether you’re new to sales or highly experienced. All it requires is learning and perfecting the techniques and strategies of referral selling. But these tools won’t work if you are not first convinced that you are a referral-based salesperson. Convince yourself and you’ll convince your clients. Convince your clients and use the techniques and strategies in Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sale Success through Client Referrals, and the referrals will come.