Ray is a seller for a software company that I have been working with for a few weeks. Although he is a strong seller, he wants to develop more effective prospecting strategies so he can bang on the phone a less while increasing his sales. We've been working on increasing the quality and quantity of the referrals he gets from his clients.
We began by reviewing his then current method of trying to get referrals. It was no surprise that he used the typical, "do a good job and ask for referrals" method. It was also no surprise to learn that he didn't get many high quality referrals. Mostly he just got names and phone numbers of companies that were either poor prospects or not prospects at all.
He did get a referred sale here and there, just enough to keep him asking, but not enough to really make a difference in his production.
He agreed with me when I explained why the "process" he was using to get referrals didn't work very well. He recognized all the problems-clients uncomfortable with the request, clients not having time to think about who to refer, clients not knowing who to refer, him feeling uncomfortable asking as he knew he was making his clients uncomfortable by putting them on the spot.
He also agreed with me when I showed him a much more effective and natural way to work with his clients to generate high quality introductions to prospects that he knew he wanted to be introduced to.
We did some role playing. We made a list of possible introductions he could get from his clients. We reviewed all the steps he needed to take and all the potential issues and problems that could arise.
Ray was ready to begin talking to some clients and getting some quality introductions.
Off he went-and quickly back he came.
He had gone to talk to a client he had just finished selling and installing the software and training the staff. The client was a plumbing company. The software was a package of accounting and payroll modules.
The sale had gone well. The software was doing exactly what it should. The client and his staff were happy.
Ray had identified a great prospect who he really wanted his client to introduce him to-another plumbing company in town. His identified prospect was one Ray had been trying to connect with for months but couldn't get the owner to take his calls or acknowledge his letters or emails. He was getting nowhere-but he also believed this was a great prospect for him.
His plumbing client was going to be the key to getting in.
That is until he went to see his client.
When Ray was visiting with his client, he thought about all the reasons his client wouldn't give him an introduction to the other plumber-that other plumber was a competitor after all and that other plumber was bigger than Ray's client; why would the client want to give the competitor anything that would help them? In addition, Ray knew that his client was bidding on a big project and that other plumbing company was probably bidding on it too. There were just too many reasons for his client to turn him down, Ray reasoned.
Knowing that he was off to get his first introduction commitment, I called Ray that afternoon to get a report. I was dismayed with what I heard.
Why again, I asked, did Ray believe his client knew the other plumber and were friends?
Because there was a picture in the client's office of the client and the other plumber each holding a huge Bass and were both smiling and obviously comparing them.
Ah, I reminded him, they really were friends.
Yes, Ray said, his client used to work for the other plumber. In fact, they still do some jobs together where the other plumber will sub-contract Ray's client when needed.
Ah, they're friends and they work closely together. In fact, Ray's client makes money off the other company. Sounds like cut throat competitors to me.
So why did he determine it would be useless to ask his client for an introduction to the other company?
Well, Ray said, they're competitors. Why would his client want to give a competitor an advantage?
What advantage, I asked? Did his software package improve his client's quality as a plumber?
Well, no, not really, Ray answered.
Did the package give him an advantage when competing for business?
Sorta, Ray said, in the sense that it made his company more efficient.
Efficient enough to blow his competition out of the water?
If his competition had the same package would it blow Ray's client out of the water?
So, I asked, what's the problem? Give me one good reason why his client wouldn't recommend to a friend and someone he works closely with something that might help him save time and money if the chances are that that something really isn't going to hurt him?
Ray couldn't, of course, come up with a good reason.
He went back, asked for and got the introduction-and eventually a new client
So often when they can't find them out there naturally, sellers put roadblocks in their way themselves.
Ray was so concerned about getting a negative response that he thought of all kinds of reasons why his client would say 'no' instead of why the client would say 'yes,' and that predetermined 'no' almost cost him a sale.
How about you? What are the predetermined reasons you can't pick up the phone and call that great prospect? What are the predetermined reasons you can't close that sale? What are the predetermined reasons you can't get that job?
Don't be Ray-don't defeat yourself before you even try. A great many of those roadblocks that keep us from success have been put there not by others but by ourselves. What roadblocks have you created? Find them and get rid of them. Life is hard enough without you defeating yourself.