Attention to all salespeople! I am about to share an absolute in sales. No one likes to make cold calls. No one. There are a handful of people reading this right now saying, “That’s wrong, I love it!” They are one of two people. A liar or a sales manager. I say this because I have been both, and neither one makes cold calls.
So how can we get in front of new opportunities that have the potential for generating revenue? I traded call lists for one magic bean that promised to grow money on its branches. Referrals.
On a scale of 0-10 rate your current referral plan. Zero means you just learned how to spell referral. Ten says you are proactively generating all of the referrals you could ever possibly need. If you have rated yourself lower than a seven, read on.
I find NOT asking for referrals effectively is either a conceptual or technical issue.
Having a conceptual issue means knowing what you should do, but not doing it because of a lack of comfort doing so. Some may not want to appear greedy. Others may not want to appear pushy.
A technical issue means you are comfortable asking, but typically ask in a way that does not net the desired result.
In either case the result is an awkward reply. It sounds like, “I can’t think of anyone right now, but when I do I will call you.” If this happens frequently you begin to feel awkward, then avoid asking altogether. I know, I’ve been there.
The following five steps should be helpful in overcoming both conceptual and technical referral concerns:
- BE DISARMINGLY HONEST. Tell the prospect how you are feeling when you get to the point of asking for a referral. “Bill, I am looking for some help and I don’t know if you will help me. I wanted to ask you for some assistance with introductions but was afraid you may not be comfortable with the request. If you are not comfortable, do not hesitate saying so.” If the prospect allows you to continue, move on. If they validate your fear, thank them for their honesty and stop. You have avoided the awkward stall and have not lost momentum in the relationship.
- SET AN AGENDA. Share with the prospect how you envision the process working. “Bill, let me take a moment and describe my ideal client for you. When I am done perhaps you can make a short list of people whom you think fit that profile.” Then ask questions about each. Now decide how, and if, the appropriate people should be contacted.
- OBJECTIVELY PROFILE YOUR PROSPECTS Make sure that when you are describing an ideal client the description is as tangible and objective as possible. “Bill, my ideal client is typically the owner of a $7-$14 million manufacturer of automotive goods. These companies usually have 20-45 employees with little turnover. All of the employees work in one location but must communicate quickly and effectively with a variety of vendors at all times of the day . . .”
- CREATE A LIST AND UNDERSTAND THE RELATIONSHIP. Once the prospect has identified people fitting your criteria, ask them why the individual picked those people, how they think you could help, and what is the degree of the prospect’s relationship with the referral.
- SET ACTION ITEMS. At the end of the conversation, determine specifically who should do what, and by when. The longer a referral sits untouched, the longer a potential problem goes unsolved.
If you plan on trading in your cold call list for a magic bean, make sure that you plant it, water it and take care of it regularly. You can make money grow on trees. Referral Trees.