Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Overcoming Your Fear of Asking for A Referral

As you consider implementing a referral program in order to improve your referral results, it’s important to first identify “what’s been getting in the way”. Is it because you don’t have a systematic process? Is it because you don’t make time for it in your client meetings? Is it because you are afraid that asking for a referral might affect your relationship with your client?

Before implementing a referral program for our clients, we assess people’s attitudes about referrals. We frequently discover mental barriers that must be overcome in order for the referral program to be successful. For example, if you feel that asking for referrals is “sleazy” or “puts your interest in front of the client’s”, you will feel uncomfortable. You will be tentative in executing the strategies and you will radiate your personal discomfort in a way that your client senses. This will impact your effectiveness and results. And if you don’t see quick success, you will likely give up and say, “This doesn’t work”.

It is important to listen carefully to your own thinking and be honest about your feelings. Record what you are saying to yourself and then challenge the “internal logic” that is holding you back. For example, if you feel that referrals are “thank you gifts” that the client gives in response to great service, you might feel that asking for a referral violates the spirit of that gift. Do you feel that asking for a referral equates to “begging” and diminishes your standing with your client?

If you don’t candidly address these fears and attitudes, your success with referrals will be stunted. These personal fears and attitudes about referrals will act as a glass ceiling that prevents you from raising performance.

To receive tips on overcoming these barriers, write to info@referralmastery.com or visit www.referralmastery.com

3 Steps to Control the Quality of Referral You Receive

To control the quality of referral you want your referral program to generate, you need to take the following steps:

Step One: define the type of referral you want your referral program to generate. What characteristics do you want to target? Do you want people in specific positions (e.g. business owner or director of marketing)? Is it people or companies at specific stages of their career or business life cycle such as someone approaching retirement or a business owner preparing to sell his or her company?

Step Two: Craft questions you can ask clients and centers of influence to help you identify people in their networks who meet these characteristics. If you are targeting business owners, then be attentive in your client conversations and listen for people who are business owners. When talking about a friend, ask about what the friend does professionally. A little bell should ring in your head when a client identifies someone who meets your target characteristics.

Step Three: As you engage in conversation about that person you can add, “Is that someone I should meet?” or “I was wondering if I might be helpful to them.” Now you are in position to learn more about them and assess how well they meet your target characteristics. If they do, then all that is left is to get agreement on a method of introduction.

To learn more about how to control the quality of referral your referral program generates, write to info@referralmastery.com or visit www.referralmastery.com

The First Step in Generating Referrals

Michael Brizz, CMC, CSP

Are you skipping the  vital first step in generating referrals?

Have you ever wondered why you are not getting your desired flow of quality referrals even though you provide high quality service?   If yes, then ask yourself, “How many referrals have you given out in the last few weeks?” If the answer is only a few, you are missing a vital step.   Giving a timely referral can create a special bond. The right kind of help at the right moment both strengthens your relationship with your client and earns the goodwill that generates a much stronger personal endorsement than quality service alone.

The power of one referral

Lois is a financial advisor based in Chicago.   While making her client contact calls, Lois saw in her notes that a client couple had their 40th wedding anniversary coming up.  When she asked the husband if they were planning anything special, he confided “I want to give her a yellow diamond!”   Picking up on his excitement, Lois took the time to ask a few questions. She learned the client felt his marriage was truly extraordinary and he wanted to make this anniversary absolutely unforgettable.

Lois recognized this was a life event to be celebrated.  By listening and giving the client time to express his feelings, she could share in the client’s anticipation and in a small way co-celebrate it with him.  The sharing of deep personal feelings helps build stronger bonds.

And Lois also recognized another opportunity:  She told this client that another of her clients was a diamond merchant who might be able to help him out. The husband was interested, so Lois immediately made a call to arrange an introduction. The merchant provided special care for Lois’s client in the form of a marvelous diamond and at a substantial discount.

With one introduction, Lois had delighted two clients. But she did much more than that. She participated in a huge life event for her first client, and her strengthened relationship with the happy couple will likely lead her to other friends who are able to spend $100,000 on anniversary gifts. At the same time, by bringing business to the diamond merchant, she demonstrated she could be a valuable alliance partner.

In this scenario, Lois exemplified the first step you must take if you want to receive a stream of high-quality referrals: give referrals first.

How giving referrals pays off

By referring your clients to useful resources, you advance your relationships and your business in powerful ways.

  • You demonstrate that you value the client as a total person. By being attentive to what is going on in your clients’ lives – beyond the area you directly service, you learn about many more ways to help your clients.   Making an introduction in these other areas demonstrates your commitment to the welfare of the client as a total person, not just a buyer of your product or service.   This both deepens the relationship and distinguishes you from other providers.
  • You elevate your status and expand your role with your client. When you provide resources that are outside your normal role, you become more valuable to them. When clients begin to see you as connected to valuable resources in multiple areas, they will share more information with you. They will seek your opinion and assistance in other areas, creating more opportunities for you to increase your value and expand your network.
  • You help others win. Think how many winners you can generate by introducing a business owner to people who can fill the following roles: customer, employee, supplier, attorney, accountant, insurance agent, alliance partner, distributor, advisor, and so on. If you’re working with a family, you can introduce people who might fill these roles: physician, psychologist, real estate agent, carpenter, landscaper, baby sitter, golf instructor … the list goes on. All of these people can benefit because of your recommendations. And each of these introductions creates at least one and possibly two new referral sources.
  • Your clients become powerful advocates for you. When you help others win, most will seek ways to help you. The more ways you help your clients, the more powerfully they will speak on your behalf. They will move beyond simply giving you names and become active in making sure you get connected to others. They will not only mention you to their friends, but speak with conviction about why they work with you and why others should work with you. In competitive selling situations, you need that kind of strong recommendation to win the day.

Where do you begin?

If you tune in to your clients, you’ll soon realize how many opportunities there are to step in with a helpful introduction. Tap into the power of giving referrals by following these pointers.

  • Pay attention. Pay attention to what is going on in your clients’ lives. You can learn a lot just by casually asking questions such as “What’s new on the home front?” or “What’s new on the work front?” Your client might surprise you by disclosing that their company is making layoffs or that someone in the family is gravely ill. Or they might mention a promotion or a new baby on the way.
  • Listen for challenges and probe further. Once you hear something interesting, find out how it is affecting your client. Whether the situation is positive or negative, you’ll learn a lot simply by asking, “What impact will have on you?” or “How is that affecting you?” Don’t forget to include the family, if it’s appropriate: “How will that affect the family?”

At a minimum, you demonstrate caring and establish a stronger emotional connection with your clients. But the rewards go much deeper. Your client’s answers may give you a key insight into the way they think or how their organization works. You may be the first to hear of new variables that are influencing their decision-making. You might also learn about new needs and new sales opportunities and be the first to develop a potential solution.

  • Offer help. If you know of a person or resource that might be of service to your client, offer to connect them.  Don’t just give them a name—make the call, and be sure to put the two parties in contact. When you demonstrate your ability to help, the client will be more likely to turn to you with other needs.

Your clients will appreciate that you pay attention to what’s happening in their lives. If you respond to special situations and challenges with an offer to help, you’ll demonstrate a commitment to them as people, not just a buyer of your product or service.

Model the behavior you want in return. You will be impressed by how powerfully it pays off.

Michael Brizz, CMC, CSP is the creator of the Referral Mastery System. He coaches sales professionals and conducts training for many of the leading companies.  Further information on Michael and referral strategies can be viewed at ReferralMastery.com. 800-865-2867

How to find the right type of alliance partners

By Michael Brizz, CMC, CSP

Creator of The Referral Mastery System

The fantasy: a horde of other companies sending you all the referrals you desire.  The reality: hundreds of hours squandered trying to develop relationships with complementary service providers with little to show for your effort.

The logic of linking with other professionals to better serve your clients is compelling.  In addition, there is much to learn from the right partners.  And with coordinated marketing, everyone wins by securing new business they would be unable to secure without the alliance.   For most sales producers, the dream of linking with other professionals to grow each others’ businesses never becomes reality despite the provider’s earnest efforts to build those relationships and give referrals.  Far too many providers commit to an alliance initiative without a clear strategy, without defining expectations, and without measures for success.

What we all discover, sooner or later, is that not everyone is a good alliance partner.  While most complementary professionals are very willing to accept your referrals, very few are willing to commit to a productive win/win/win alliance.  Successful alliances start with finding the right partner.  A mistake during this phase of the process dooms the alliance to failure.  No effort in the future can make up for the wrong partner.

What are some common mistakes?

1. Trying to forge alliances with little understanding of the potential partner’s client base, marketing strategy, or growth objectives.  An alliance makes sense if both alliance partners are focused on serving the same type of clients.  Just because you have capabilities to help a wide range of people, does not mean you should establish alliances to serve all these different types of people.  An alliance with a divorce and family practice law firm is very logical if your target market is divorcees.  However, it is just a waste of precious resources if you are targeting 401K plans or payroll services.

If the attorney or accountant is in the “wind down” phase of their business, it is unlikely they will be a strong referral source for you.  While they may have a large client base, they are no longer trying to grow their business.  They don’t have any incentive to invest in an alliance that will pay off down the road.

2. Misfit of business maturation or size.  If you are a solo producer with a relatively small practice and you are trying to link with the most established provider in town, you have little to no significance to that provider.   They likely have established alliances that were put in place a long time ago.  Unless you provide special expertise or an opening to a market that is a target for them, it doesn’t make sense for them to invest much in a relationship with you.  Will they accept your referrals and be gracious about saying “Thank you?”   Yes.   But will they invest in a relationship with you? Not likely. It doesn’t make sense for them to do so when there is a mismatch of what each party can provide to the other.

3. Trying to forge too many alliances.  Alliances frequently require a serious commitment of nurturing before they bear fruit.  There are a limited number of alliances that you can effectively support.  An alliance can’t last if both parties fail to provide sustained support.

How do you select the right partners?

First, clarify your target market: who you want to serve and how you want to distinguish yourself in that target market.  This will help you develop your selection criteria and determine what role you want the other professionals to play.

Second, develop your vision of how you want an alliance to work for all the parties.  What roles do you see each partner playing?

Third, define your criteria of what you want in an alliance partner. Consider the following:

  • Fit of client base:  Do they have a client base that is attractive to you and do you have one that is attractive to them?  You can’t expect a partner to invest time and money pursing business that is not in alignment with his or her marketing goals.
  • Fit of growth objectives and marketing strategies.  Are their growth objectives and beliefs on how to generate business compatible with yours?
  • Complementary expertise. Alliance partners must provide expertise that serves the needs of your target market.  The alliance should provide all alliance partners with a competitive advantage because of the distinctive combination of competencies you provide collectively.
  • Position to recommend.   Do they carry enough influence with their clients so that an introduction from them is treated like a strong recommendation?    The housekeeping staff person may be on very friendly terms with the law partner however his opinions have little influence on legal or financial matters.   Are they limited by a perceived “conflict of interest” and therefore unable to refer you?
  • Willingness to invest:  Is the other party willing to invest time, money, and exposure to their client base to the same level you are?  Get these issues out on the table quickly and test them by asking for an early commitment of time and money.
  • Are they dependable?  Do they provide quality service and do they fulfill their commitments as an alliance partner?  Ask if they have worked with others in the past in similar types of alliances.  Find out who they were and call them.
  • Potential value to the partner.  The alliance must be worthwhile to your partner.  Define specifically what you feel they can gain from it and strive to structure the partnership so both parties win in a roughly equal manner.

Fourth, develop a list of candidates by asking clients and others in your network to recommend service providers they view highly.

Fifth, interview a few for the purpose of exploring an alliance.  Learn about their vision for their business, their growth objectives, their client base and target market, and how they see an alliance fitting with their marketing strategy.

Sixth, start with the one (maximum two) person or firm you feel is the best fit and create a joint marketing plan.  Develop a clear set of expectations for both parties.  Identify an event or some marketing initiative where both parties must invest.  This will give you an early indication of their commitment.  Establish measures of success.  Set short-term goals such as the number of referrals you will generate for each other in the next quarter.  Then review the progress quarterly to see if both parties are meeting the expectations and how the strategy is working.   Only when you have one alliance working well (or you decide it can’t work) is it the time to explore the potential for another win/win alliance.

With these steps, you will save time because you will focus only on those who have real potential to enhance your practice.  You will also quickly distinguish between those who can be serious partners and those who just talk a good game.

An alliance strategy can provide big wins if you have the right partners and support them well.  You are much more likely to succeed by focusing on a small number where there is good fit of target market, marketing objectives, and expertise.   A small number of highly effective alliances is vastly superior to a large number of ineffective ones.

Michael Brizz, CMC, CSP is the creator of The Referral Mastery System® (www.referralmastery.com).  He works with sales professionals to drive their business growth through referrals. He can be reached at 800-865-2867 or mike@referralmastery.com.