As the title explains, this book covers a 4 step sales process as follows: Referrals –> Introductions –> Appointments –> Clients.
Quick Guide to Referrals
Since the book covers a broad range of topics, here is a step-by-step guide solely focused on referrals:
- Seek referrals soon after “trigger moments” when value is delivered and confirmed. For instance, when a prospect first becomes a client, when a client thanks you for providing value or solving a problem, or when a client responds positivity to a customer satisfaction survey.
- Approach the client with a target list of contacts you know (or suspect) they are connected to – LinkedIn is a great resource for this. A distant alternative is explaining your ideal customer profile and then asking for names.
- Ask your client to facilitate a mutual, face-to-face introduction over a meal or at an intimate event that you pay for. Plan B is to have your client send an email to the prospect introducing you (cc’d); make it easy for them by providing a template they can customize. Plan C is to reach out to the prospect via a multi-touch (8 to 10), multi-channel (phone, email, etc.) cadence referencing the referral source upfront.
- Keep your delighted client informed on the status of the referral (“close the loop”) and thank them when the prospect becomes a client.
Now back to the book’s content:
Step 1: Get More Referrals
- Be referable by building Trust with clients – value, responsiveness, credibility, reciprocity, professionalism, innovation, reputation. Think value first and referral second.
- Being referral-centric is a mindset – commit to getting referrals from each customer and non-customer
- What you learn about the new prospect from your referral source helps you craft a much more compelling reason for why that prospect should give you a piece of his or her valuable time.
- Communicate to your referral sources which kinds of clients you serve best.
- Once a year, you should explain the referral process to all your A and B clients.
- People hesitate to give referrals for the following reasons: (1) They are afraid you are going to hound the referral, or (2) they worry about confidentiality issues.
- Do not pay clients for referrals. Instead, (a) Always thank people for giving you referrals (b) get your new client to thank the referral source (c) Thank you referral sources publicly (d) Go back to pas referral sources and let them know how many people they have influenced or helped.
- VIPS method of asking for referrals. (V)alue discussion = provide and confirm value in every meeting with clients and prospects; (I)mportance = Use an agenda for every meeting, remind clients you met them via referral, and convey your request for a referral with confidence; (P)ermission = Get permission to brainstorm people to refer; (S)uggest names and categories of people. Create a target list of people this person likely knows and go through it one by one.
- Referrals are triggered when value has been given and recognized: (1) prospect thanks you for providing value (2) prospect becomes a client (3) prospect or client mentions a friend or colleague (4) client thanks you for providing value (5) client responds to satisfaction survey with a high rating or explicit willingness to refer you
- Centers of Influence (COIs) are those folks who may never become clients of yours but have the ability to give you referrals.
- Make your request for referrals and the ensuing introduction all about your incredible value and desire to help others.
- Attend events your clients frequent
Step 2: Get More (Engaged) Introductions
- An engaged, quality introduction is a collaborative effort where the referral source works with you to make sure you get connected to the new prospect. Quality means knowing what is important to the prospect in their life and/or business right now.
- Understand the nature of the relationship between the client and the prospect they are referring – “Tell me something you like or admire about the person.”
- It is best for the prospect to hear from the client first. While face-to-face introductions are best, email introductions where the client cc’s you are acceptable. If leveraging email provide your client with a template written in an informal voice. Worst case, send an email to the prospect referencing the referral source in the first two words of the subject line – “Mary Smith asked me to contact you.”
- “I would love to meet your colleague. Can I take the two of you to lunch?” or “I’m certain these folks would prefer to hear from you before they hear from me. What I’ve found works best is a personal introduction, where the three of us meet for a meal…”
- The introduction needs to feel safe (comfortable) to both the client providing the introduction and the prospect receiving the introduction. Use introductions as an opportunity to build genuine trust and rapport before asking for a business meeting; do not talk business unless they bring it up.
- When collaborating on a great introduction, think in terms of three words: what, how, and when. What do you need to say to him or her? How should the introduction take place (phone, e-mail, note, over lunch)? When can you make contact with him or her?
- Keep the referral source in the loop
- Host intimate events that include clients and client-invited prospects. These can be (a) social or affinity-group events (b) philanthropic or community service events (c) celebration events (d) educational events. Do not pitch at these events. If holding dinner events, keep to 8 to 10 people, maximum. Call your clients to alert them to the event. Mail them a nice invitation. Then call them to confirm their attendance and their guests. If you want your event to be successful—whatever type of event you’re hosting—call your clients! Don’t make the mistake of just mailing invitations to them, hoping enough people will reply and bring a guest.
Step 3: Get More Appointments
- Prove that you are valuable through (1) referrals (2) testimonials (3) special reports (4) a great website (5) case studies.
- Personally, I never call prospects on their cell phone unless I already have an established relationship and they have provided their cell phone number to me.
- If face-to-face meetings are not possible, consider a video call.
- When contacting a prospect for the first time, present yourself as a resource, learn a little by asking questions, then schedule your next call. “I’d like to ask you a few questions and tell you a little bit about the value I believe I provide. After 5 minutes or so, we’ll both be able to decide if it makes sense to continue the conversation—either through another phone call or getting together. How’s that sound?”
- If you have trouble finding the time to make your prospecting calls, make an appointment with yourself and respect that appointment as if it’s an appointment with a client.
- When you do get the brush-off, try not to let it get to you. Acknowledge it and then ask a question. Sometimes just saying, “Oh?” or “Tell me more” will get you past the knee-jerk response.
- Leave a voice-mail that get returned: (1) reference your referral source up front (2) get down to business right away – “The reason for my call is…” (3) show you have done your homework about them
- Send emails that get replied to: (1) put the referral source in the subject line (2) short body – under 90 words (3) simple – plain text (4) no more than one link which provides true value
- Reduce appointment cancellations by: (1) ensuring prospect has a strong sense of the value you provide (2) sending something of value before the appointment (3) sending reminders
- Value-centered professional persistence is a critical key to success in client acquisition. Jill Konrath, the author of SNAP Selling, writes, “From the onset, you need to plan a minimum of 8-12 touches.” Keep good records and have a solid reminder system in place.
- Nudge with Value & Scarcity – ex: “Attached is our Referral Tip Sheet #3 for you to share with all your reps.
- Go for the no. This is a technique I learned from the late, great sales trainer Dave Sandler. When I have a prospect who keeps putting me off, I say something like, “George, please tell me if I’m wrong, but I’m getting the impression that we may never have the opportunity to do business together. Do you think that’s true?” Sometimes my prospect says yes, and I’m “free”!
Step 4: Get More Clients
- We accomplish positive influence through building trust and then moving through a process that’s made up of a series of permissions or invitations. We gain permission to ask some questions, the answers to which not only inform us, but also, we hope, teach our prospects. We invite our prospects to continue the conversation when we send them information, make another phone call, or have an in-person meeting.
- Many people engaged in the sales process talk in terms of “closing the sale.” I like to think in terms of “confirming the relationship.”
- Build trust by: (1) asking good questions – remember to ask permission to ask (2) listen well (3) always leading with value (4) discussing expectations (5) articulating your value with confidence = clear short answers (6) adjusting to people’s communication style (7) acquiring & sharing knowledge & expertise (8) solving rather than running from problems
- Get in the habit of sharing your sales process with prospects, talking about how the process itself is beneficial. Your process should use prospect-centric language.
- At the end of your first appointment, you can make sure you have your second appointment scheduled.
- Find a few ways to be in touch with your prospects between meetings.
- For the rest of your career, before you get on the phone with a prospect or client … before you meet in person … think these seven words, “What’s my desired outcome for this meeting?” (Or “phone call.”)
- “When I approach a new prospect, I tell them, ‘I’m not here to sell you my consulting services. Think of our conversations as more of a brainstorming session. We’re going to exchange a lot of ideas. We’re going to ask each other a lot of questions. There are no bad ideas and no bad questions.
- Make it a habit of asking your contact, “In addition to yourself, who might also be involved in this decision?” When you get the answer, you say, “For the sake of efficiency and clear communication, the next time we talk [meet], can everyone involved be there?”
- Work on the personal side. I always encourage people to build business friendships with their prospects and clients—to get to know each other in ways that go way beyond the business they do together.
- Tell prospects why you do what you do
- BENEFITS OR TRANSFORMATIONS? Lately, I’ve shifted from talking about benefits to talking about transformations.
- Teach clients how to buy what you sell
- To get a prospect to change from one product or service to another, from one way of doing things to a different way, you have to disturb the status quo in some way.
- When you sense the prospect is ready to buy, make a recommendation: “Here’s how I recommend we move forward.” If you feel a need to be softer (working with a more indirect personality), then you can change recommend to suggest.
Additional Tips & Insights
- Most salespeople experience closing ratios of 10 to 30 percent from other lead sources. Referral-based sales usually close at 50 to 70 percent
- Provide one or two high-quality gifts every year that clients will use