Potentially one of the easiest ways to set more appointments and generate more sales is through referrals. Notice I said "potentially."
If you are asking a friend, family member or an established customer to suggest the names of your next prospects, the whole process is somewhat easier. You already have built the rapport that you need to acquire the names you want.
If your relationship is still being formed, asking for referrals is a little more uncomfortable. People want to make sure that their friends and associates will be treated well before they refer you. Whether a prospect or client gives you a referral depends on how they relate to you and what they think of you, as a business professional as well as a person. How you present yourself and your products or services can either lead to more referrals or more dead ends. The choice is truly yours.
Many don't even ask for referrals because they fear rejection. The simple question, "Do you know of anyone who would be interested in hearing more about our investment opportunities…retirement community…or printing services?” can be so daunting that 89% of insurance professionals don't even ask for referrals.
Even if we find the courage, inexperience can cause us to approach the whole process incorrectly, forgetting an important step.
To get the process right, you must first believe in your product, your message and the value that you can bring to your clients and prospects.
You must then present and deliver your solution in the best light possible. There are a select who can improvise and succeed. For the rest of us, it takes detailed preparation to get to the point where we know enough to be comfortable to present our solution with a reassured smile. One of the easiest ways for the sales person to gain increased confidence is to be prepared and, if needed, script the calls or at least create an agenda or outline to follow. Scripting is used by a number of different professionals to get their message across. Movie actors and directors follow a script, and an off-Broadway play isn’t very enjoyable without the script. A well-written, well-organized script will provide your prospects and clients with the right information and reassure them that you know what you are talking about. When you sound like you know your product or service, you can give others confidence in both yourself and in the product you offer.
In the end, though, we have to earn the right to ask for a referral. A recommendation is a direct result of how effective you have been at gaining someone's trust, often by delivering a product that fits her needs. People must know, like and trust you. Think for a moment. If you had a friend or a family member, someone you wanted the best for, would you refer that person to someone like you? If you are paying attention, you should know when to ask for a referral.
Often, if someone provides a referral, he feels that the actions of that sales person will reflect on him, for good or bad. For example, a client of mine asked if I knew of an individual or organization that worked with sales people on their image, or how they should interact with a prospective customer. I provided one of my contacts, knowing full well that she was more than capable. I called my contact to prepare her for this client, who was not one for flash and showy materials. I felt good about connecting these two people. About a week later, I got a call from my client asking me what in world I was thinking. Despite my warning, she had shown him a number of risqué ideas and suggested liberal techniques. It was as if my words fell on deaf ears. From that experience I learned to be much more careful about making referrals.
The dynamics of human interactions are often complex, and it is important to understand and honor our customers' reluctance to share information. Being patient can create respect that can help strengthen the relationship with those we serve.
It’s easy to ask for a referral. Let me share with you a simple, five-step process.
- Step 1: Somewhere in a conversation, I ask, "Can you do me a favor?" A majority of the time, the person will respond with something like: "Well, that depends. What do you need?"
- Step 2: I simply ask, "Who do you know whom I should be talking with about the type of work I do?" Expect the response, "I can't think of anyone."
- Step 3: Identify the type of person you are looking for. Say, "I am looking for someone very similar to you." Then describe what that means.
- Step 4: "If we were at a social gathering right now, having a conversation like we are now, and a friend of yours walked up, would you introduce us?" Expect this response, "Well, of course I would."
- Step 5: "That's all I am asking for today, an introduction to someone you know, a nice person who may be in a similar situation. You can be confident that I will treat them with the same respect that I have always shown you. Is that fair enough?"
If the person still doesn't want to refer you to anyone, let it go. You want to always leave the person you are talking to better than you found him. The question we all need to ask ourselves is, ‘Am I referrable?"
- Do I show up on time?
- Do I follow up on the things I say I’m going to follow up on?
- Am I prepared for each call?
- Am I confident?
- Are my prospects and clients confident in me?
I haven't personally made a cold call in more than 15 years. Over that time, my business has prospered on a steady stream of referrals. If you’ve done the work of effective relationship building, gaining referrals is very simple.
Are you asking for referrals?
How can you apply these simple steps to your process and begin getting more referrals today?