Are you one of the more than 85% of all salespeople, professionals and business owners who are finding it difficult to get quality referrals from your customers and clients or, worse, have simply given up even asking for them?
Is your pipeline hurting? Are you beating the bushes for new clients without success?
Are you wondering how in the world you're going to survive with a recession on the horizon when things are this tough now?
You're not alone. There are millions of salespeople, professionals and business owners in the same predicament. And more are joining you every day.
Despite the slowing economy, the increased competition, the seemingly never ending bad news about the economy, and the havoc these wreck upon your psyche, there are ways to generate a solid, consistent, quality base of prospects-even in the worst economy.
Referrals from your current client base to others who know, trust and respect your clients are the single best marketing method you have at your disposal. Yes, even for the 85% of salespeople, professionals, and business owners who have found referrals to be almost impossible to generate-or who have given up on them.
Salespeople and sales trainers have spent decades studying the various aspects of selling. Salespeople and companies will spend millions upon millions of dollars this year studying the intricacies of cold calling. Millions more will be invested in learning how to overcome objections, how to write the prefect direct mail piece, how to close, what questions to ask, how to persuade, how to negotiate, how to network effectively, and dozens of other strategies and techniques of the sales process.
Yet, almost nothing will be spent on learning how to generate referrals.
Why? Why do salespeople, companies and sales trainers take the most effective and most cost efficient marketing method there is so lightly? Why do they invest so little time and energy on the most important prospect generation tool a salesperson has?
The problem with getting referrals isn't with the concept of referrals or with your clients or even with you. The problem with generating referrals is that you and almost everyone else has treated referrals as nothing more than a question tossed at your client at the end of the sale. If you are like most you've been taught that referrals are an after-thought, a simple request, nothing more than a last second question.
The root of the problem is a complete misunderstanding of referrals. Referrals are treated as a sideshow to selling-when it fact they should be in the center ring. They're treated as nothing more than a question-when in fact they are a process. They are viewed as nothing more than a simple request-when in fact that question is tied to the very psychology and personal image of your client.
Why are referral-based salespeople generally top producers and non-referral-based salespeople generally run of the mill? Is it because the referral-based salesperson is luckier? Is it because they're better looking or more likable? Is it because they have better clients?
For the majority of referral-based salespeople the answer is none of the above. They don't count on luck, likeability, or any other excuse to explain their success. They are successful because they've learned something the vast majority of salespeople, professionals, business owners, sales managers and even sales trainers haven't learned-generating referrals isn't just a simple little question at the end of a sale.
They've learned that generating referrals is a complete, learned, disciplined process, just like every other part of the sales process. They learned that generating referrals isn't easy. If it were, every salesperson would be generating a ton of high quality referrals.
They've learned that the way the majority of salespeople ask for referrals is bound to fail.
They've learned that the way the majority of salespeople have been taught to ask for referrals is the most ineffective method anyone could imagine.
They've learned that if you don't understand the psychology of your client and how to deal with your client's psychological need for reassurance and confidence before giving referrals, your request is a waste of both your client's and your time.
They've learned that referrals are not a simple request but are instead a partnership between your client and yourself, that you are asking your client to become a partner in your business and clients don't take that request lightly.
Despite what you may have been taught about referrals, if you want to generate enough high quality referrals to make a real impact on your business, you must treat referrals like any other part of the sales process. You must invest your time and energy in learning
• How to prepare your client to give referrals
• Why giving you referrals is in your client's best interests
• Why your clients are reluctant to give quality referrals and how to overcome that reluctance
• Why you must help your clients give referrals and how to make giving high quality referrals easy for your client
• How to contact the referred prospect in ways that will ensure you gain an appointment with them.
Finding quality prospects and turning them into clients is getting tougher and tougher. As the economy continues to slow, finding and converting prospects will continue to get tougher. You don't have to sit and watch your pipeline shrivel and die. You can do something about it. You can learn how to use the most effective and efficient prospecting tool you have. You just can't do it the way 85% of other salespeople do it.
If you do what the majority of salespeople do, you'll have the same results they have-failure. You cannot do what isn't working for the vast majority of salespeople and believe that your results will miraculously be different from their results.
Referrals work. They are the king of prospecting and marketing. But like any king, treat them with contempt and disrespect and you'll not be granted their favors. However, if you want the rewards they can bestow, you'll have to honor them with your time and energy to learn how to make them work for you.
It's a simple choice. Toil as you are and continue to watch your pipeline dissolve away, or learn what the majority of your competitors and associates won't-how to use the most effective prospecting and marketing tool in your toolbox.
Paul McCord is the president of McCord and Associates, a Houston based sales training and coaching company that specializes in lead generation and personal marketing. He is the author of Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals (John Wiley and Sons, 2007), the authoritative work on referral generation, and the newly released SuperStar Selling: 12 Keys to Becoming a Sales SuperStar. He may be reached at [email protected] or visit his website at www.mccordandassociates or his highly popular blog at http://salesandmanagementblog.com.
Copyright 2008, Paul McCord. Article may be reproduced without change, with proper attribution, a short bio, and contact information. Please notify by email of when and where article will appear to [email protected]
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