3 Critical Strategies to Get More Referrals and Introductions

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All the product knowledge and all the sales skills in the world aren’t worth a hill of beans if you don’t have enough people to see. You can’t sell to nonexistent prospects. Also, when you meet prospects worthy of your time and attention, if you meet them under the right circumstances – every other part of your process works better.

When you work from referrals and, better yet, personal introductions, you are meeting your prospects at a higher point of trust than any other method of meeting prospects. You borrow the trust in one relationship long enough to earn your own trust. In case you need to be reminded, working from referrals and personal introductions is how your prospects would prefer to meet you. Doesn’t it make sense to build a business based on how people want to meet you? A recommendation and introduction from someone they already trust!

Strategy #1 – Get Referrals Without Asking for Them by Becoming Super Referable

How do you know if you’re “referable?” Simple – you’re getting referrals and introductions without asking for them. Are you getting steady flow of these referrals? Are you getting referred to the right kinds of prospects for your business? If not, then you may not be as referable as you think you are.

While there are many things that you can do to become super referable, at the heart of your referability is “client engagement.”  In her study “The Economics of Loyalty,” Julie Littlechild demonstrated that there is a surprisingly low correlation between client satisfaction and giving referrals. While satisfied clients demonstrated almost 100% loyalty, only 20% provided referrals in the preceding 12 months. On the other hand, “engaged clients” were not only loyal, 98% provided one or more referrals in a 12-month period. Who gives referrals? Engaged Clients!

The three critical strategies that go into creating engaged clients are:

1. Providing great value from the start and then ongoing value over time.

2. Creating ongoing feedback.

3. Building business friendships.

Providing ongoing value creates satisfied clients – important, but not enough to grow your business at the pace you desire. Creating relationships built on ongoing feedback and business friendships is what turns satisfied clients into engaged clients. Littlechild found that 71% of the clients who gave referrals were asked for input on their relationship by the advisor. I call this “The Value Discussion.”

Strategy #2 — Asking for Referrals Without Pushing or Begging

Here are the three biggest mistakes I see with people asking for referrals. See if you are making any of these:

1. Making the request all about you. Saying such things as, “I’m building my business and can use your help” or “One of the ways I get paid is through referrals.”  A request for referrals should be about bringing your important value to others.

 2. Not really asking for referrals or introductions. Saying things like, “I’m never too busy to help others you might introduce us to.” This is not asking for an introduction. This is promoting introductions. While promoting referrals has its value, it should never be confused with actually asking for a referral.

3. Lacking a process.  If they ask at all, most people don’t follow a specific process. Lacking a process often causes a lack of confidence and usually weak results. Here’s a brief introduction into my popular, easy-to-remember and highly effective VIPS Method™.

     V – Discuss the Value.

No appointment with a prospect or client should go by without checking to make sure they found value in the meeting, process, or overall relationship. This “check in” creates referrals without even asking and is a prime contributor to creating engaged relationships.

     I – Treat the Request with Importance.

Why? Because the work you do is important! You do believe that, don’t you? Make sure you use an agenda for each meeting so you manage the time better and you don’t forget to have the value discussion (and probably ask for referrals). Make the value discussion and referral request a part of the meeting, not an afterthought.

     P – Get Permission to Brainstorm.

Get buy-in for your request. Don’t plow ahead assuming your prospect or client is comfortable giving you referrals. This softer approach will open up more people to the request.

     S – Suggest Names & Categories.

Be prepared to participate in the thought process. Make this a collaborative effort. Suggest specific people you know in their world or suggest some categories of folks with whom you can provide great value.

By having a track to run on and delivering your request with a lot of confidence, when you get to the value discussion and referral request, you won’t – all of a sudden – sound like a different person – or worse yet – a robot.

Strategy #3 — Turning Referrals into Introductions

Referrals aren’t enough anymore. To cut through all the noise in the marketplace and to pique the prospect’s interest in hearing from you, you don’t want to stop at, “Give George a call and tell him I sent you.” While this is better than a cold call, it’s often not enough to get connected.

While I don’t recommend you assume your prospect or client is willing to give you referrals – after you get buy-in first, then I believe it is okay to assume the introduction or connection conversation. You can say things like, “Let’s talk about the best way for you to introduce me to George.” OR “I’m sure George would like to hear from you before he hears from me. How do you feel about shooting him an email? You can cc me and I’ll follow up from there?”

There’s a lot more that can go into this conversation, but since I’m nearing the end of your attention span, I’ll give you one more tip. Create a time frame. “When do you think you’ll have a chance to create this electronic handshake – so I make sure I don’t miss it?”

Engaged clients will most likely be happy to offer introductions when you ask for them. Those types of introductions are your best place to find referrals – and ultimately qualified prospects.

Bill Cates is an author, highly sought-after keynote speaker and founder of the popular Referral Coach Academy, an online learning and coaching program. Learn more at www.ReferralCoach.com. Bill can be reached at Info@ReferralCoach.com.

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