In the last post I discussed how to work with your client to get agreement to give you a number of high quality referrals once the sale has been completed.
Sounds great, huh? Just live up to your agreement to give the client the purchasing experience they want and you’ll get four, five, six or more great referrals.
Well, in reality, not quite.
Yes, in your conversation your client agreed that it made sense to give you four or five referrals to the type of people or companies you defined for them if you earn them through your performance as laid out in the discussion. Some of your clients will take this agreement seriously and give thought of whom to refer. Others will take it seriously—and then forget it. And still others won’t take it seriously at all.
It would be nice if all we had to do was get their agreement and then wait for the magical day after the sale when they’ll give us tons of wonderful referrals.
Do that and you’ll end up like every other seller who asks for referrals—you’ll be lucky to get one, two at the very most.
So how in the world are you supposed to walk away with a number of great referrals if you know that your client, no matter how sincere they are about giving you several referrals, isn’t going to have them to give to you?
Do the Work for Your Client
For most clients, making quality referrals is difficult. Despite your attempts to define for them who a good referral is, most clients really have a very difficult time putting a person or business together with you and your services. Since we know this going into the relationship, and since we know we want a number of quality referrals from the client, we must then be prepared to do the work of finding quality referrals from the client, for the client.
In order to be able to make the referrals for the client, we have to know who the client knows—or who we have reason to believe the client knows—that we know we want to be referred to.
Hmm—referral generation just got hard.
For most sellers selling into businesses, this isn’t nearly as difficult as it may appear. All we have to do is pay attention during the course of the sale. Learn everything you can about your client and their business. Listen closely during conversations, particularly casual conversations. Keep your eyes open. Be aware of everything.
? Where did your client previously work?
? Are there industry association directories in their bookcase?
? Who are their vendors and customers?
? What other departments in the company would you like to sell into?
? Do they mention others by name that you know you’d like to be referred to?
Most of us, if we really pay attention during the course of the sale can probably come up with a dozen or more names of people or companies that we know we want to be referred to that we have reason to believe our client knows. Those will be the key to getting a large number of high quality referrals.
During the remainder of the sale after our direct referral conversation with the client, we simply go back to dropping referral seeds as we make sure that we perform just as we have promised the client. No direct reminders of their promise to give referrals. No asking if they’ve given thought to who they might refer. Just the casual referral seeds and an exceptional purchasing experience as promised.
After the sale is complete and all products delivered or services preformed, set up a short 20 minute referral acquisition meeting with your client. Don’t do any other work other than referrals in this meeting. Don’t let anything get in the way.
At the meeting, get the one or two referrals you client has for you, if they have any, and then ask about the people on your list. If you’ve done your job of paying attention well and have a dozen or more names on your list, your client will probably know four or more. If you’ve met your obligations to your client, they will refer you to those people you ask about that they know.
Instead of walking away with one or two—or no—referrals, you’ll walk away with four, five, six or more—and at a minimum you know the names you asked about and were referred to are quality referrals.
After You Get the Referrals
Your work is still far from done. At this point all you have are names and numbers. Now you have to convert them into introductions.
Typically sellers will rush back to their office, pick up the phone, call the referred prospect, and get brushed off. Not good.
Instead of phoning the prospect, look to get a direct introduction by:
? Letter of Introduction: get a letter introducing you to the prospect from your client. Don’t let the client write the letter. They’ll do it in their timeframe, not yours, and clients tend to write really general letters. Instead, write the letter for your client’s signature. Make sure the letter is absolutely truthful, but give the referred prospect a good reason to meet with you, i.e., give them a solid idea of what you accomplished for your client.
? Introductory phone call: Ask your client to call the referred prospect and introduce you. Stronger than a letter and more personal also. With your client on the line with you as you ask for a meeting, it is difficult for the prospect to decline.
? Introductory lunch meeting with your client, the prospect, and yourself. Stronger than a phone call and gives you a considerable amount of time to get to know the prospect. Again, when you do ask for a private meeting, it is difficult for the prospect to decline with your client there.
No matter the introduction method, you need to try to determine what the relationship between your client and the person they referred you to is. Clients don’t just refer you to people who trust and respect them. They’ll refer you to people who are neutral acquaintances and even to people who distrust and disrespect them.
You must know which relationship you’re being referred into.
If your client refers you to someone who trusts and respects them, some of the trust and respect the prospect has for your client is automatically imbued to you since you were referred by them. Consequently, you begin your relationship with that prospect from a position of strength.
On the other hand, if the person distrusts and disrespects your client, some of that distrust and disrespect is also imbued to you. You begin your relationship from a position of weakness.
You must know where you’re starting in order to know how to handle the prospect. In general, the weaker the relationship between your client and the prospect, the stronger the introduction method you should try to employ and the more demonstrable the results for your client you’ll have to have.
You can generate lots of great referrals—you just can’t ask for them. You have to learn how to work with your client to generate them. Getting lots of quality referrals isn’t easy as so many try to claim. If it were, every seller would be a top producer working exclusively off of referrals. But by learning how to generate them and with some practice and skill development, you can build your business off of referrals.