The Referral Process–Steps 5, 6, and 7

In my last blog, I discussed step 4 of the eight-step referral process and in the weeks prior to that, I went over steps 1, 2, and 3 Today I’m going to cover steps 5, 6, and 7.

  • Step 5.  Report Back to Your Source

Report back to your referral source and let her know the outcome of your meeting (unless, of course, she went along with you).  Ask her to follow up with the prospect to find out about his impression of you.  Let her know how important it is for you to make her look good to the prospect.

  • Step 6.  Your Source Gets Feedback from the Referral

The referral source calls your prospect on your behalf to get information that you can use to address any concerns for your next meeting.  Since the prospect is likely to tell your source of any concerns that he may not have expressed to you, this is the best way to find out what your prospect is thinking.

  • Step 7.  Your Source Reports Back to You

Your source reports back to you with more information about the prospect. This increases your chances of closing the sale on the next call or, if the prospect is already under contract or not currently in the market, perhaps at the next available opportunity.  With this information, you can contact the prospect at a more appropriate time and be first in line with a proposal and sales plan ready to go.

If you would like to find out about the last step in the easy, eight-step referral process, be sure to come back next week.  Step 8 is usually most people’s favorite step and it’ll probably be yours too because it’s all about closing the deal.

The Referral Process–Step 3

The referral process (CLICK HERE to read a short overview of the referral process) can be broken down into eight easy steps. In a blog entry I posted last Monday, I explained step 1 (Your Source Discovers a Referral) and step 2 (Research the Referral).  Today, I am going to talk about step 3.

  • Step 3.  Check Back in with Your Referral Source

After learning all you can about the prospect’s company through your outside research, it’s a good idea, especially if the referral appears to be complex or of very high value, to call your referral source back to confirm or refine what you’ve learned about the prospect’s company.

You need to keep your referral source in the loop and out of trouble. Making her look good is a primary objective, perhaps even more important than the immediate sale, because you want this referral relationship to continue and to benefit both of you far into the future.

More important for your approach to the prospect, you need to know more about him personally, which is something you can assume your referral source is particularly well positioned to help you with.

Try to learn about what sort of individual you’ll be dealing with. What’s his personality type?  Is he detail oriented?  If so, he might want to see a lot of collateral material or samples.  Is he hard driving and results oriented?  He might just want to talk about your offerings, see your track record, and make a quick judgment.  Does he like to have fun while he’s doing business?  Perhaps you’ll join him on the golf course.  If he’s all business, the office environment is probably better.

What are the prospect’s goals?  Why is he interested in your products or services?  Is he happy with his current provider or looking for a change?  Is he ready to do business with you immediately based on the referral, or is he sending out requests for proposals to other companies?

What you don’t want to do is charge at the prospect with no idea of what is expected or desired.  Having some certainty about these factors will help you put together a powerful presentation that is tailored to the individual and his company.  This will help you accomplish your two most important objectives: closing the sale quickly and making your referral source look good.

If you have a testimonial you’d like to share about a time you successfully executed step 3 in the referral process and how it made for great results, or a story about how you learned the importance of step 3 after neglecting to complete it and suffering the consequences, please feel free to share by leaving a comment.

Be sure to check back in next week if you want to learn about step 4!

Generate More Business by Offering Value-added Advice

It’s no secret that we all want to do business with people whom we know and trust.  So, how do you build rapport and create trust with new contacts at networking events?  By offering value-added advice–solid, helpful information provided out of a genuine concern for another person.

Let’s say you’re a real estate agent talking with someone at a networking event who, although not ready to buy a home today, is heading in that direction.  You could say something like this:

Well, I know you’re not interested in buying a home right now.  But, when you’re ready to start looking, I highly recommend checking out the north part of town.  A lot of my clients are seeing their homes appreciate in the 10 to 20 percent range, and from what I understand, the city is thinking about building another middle school in that area.

See how it’s possible to offer some value-added advice without being too salesy?  A statement like this acknowledges that your prospect is not currently in the market (first sentence) but still demonstrates your expertise, so he will remember you when he’s ready to move.

This model works for consultants, CPAs, accountants, financial planners, coaches–just about anyone in a service-based industry in which knowledge is the main product. If you’re concerned about giving away your intellectual capital for free, look at it this way: few people are going to sign up to do business with you if they’re not sure you can do the job.  In the absence of a tangible product, you have nothing but your technical expertise to demonstrate that you have the goods.  And when you think about it, that makes sense.  Whenever you’re ready to buy an automobile, it doesn’t matter how much research you’ve done on a particular model, you’re probably not going to write your check until you’ve taken the car for a test drive.

The same is true for your prospects.  Give them a little test drive to show how it would feel to do business with you. If you’re a marketing consultant, give them a couple of ideas on how they can increase the exposure of their business.  Don’t go overboard; maybe offer a technique you read in a magazine or tried with one of your clients.  Just give them something they can try on to see if it works.

Not only will this open up a good conversation with new contacts while you’re out networking, if you play your cards right, whom do you think they’ll go to when they’re in need of your kind of service? 🙂  When it comes to building rapport and creating trust, nothing does it better than offering value-added advice.

‘Mastering the World of Selling’

When one of your business relationships passes you a referral, don’t assume that the prospect is ready to hear a presentation on your product or service. When an associate passes you a referral, say thanks . . . then start digging for more information.

You will want to determine whether what you offer is a fit for what the prospect needs.  Taking the time to do this upfront saves a lot of time and energy–for both you and the prospect. Exactly what does the prospect do? What products or services does he want from you? Will your offerings truly fulfill his needs? What is his behavioral style? What are his business goals? How large is his company?

Even with the referral in hand, don’t skip steps in your sales process. Before you approach the prospect, decide on a strategy based on whatever you can find out about him–the same as you would when preparing for any sale. Although the prospect was referred to you, all you’ve really received is an opportunity to approach the prospect with a favorable introduction. (This is not a bad thing–a single referral can open the door to a prospect it may have taken weeks, months or even years to connect with–if you even could at all.)  But whether the prospect becomes a client or not depends on how well you convince him that what you offer, at the price and under the conditions you offer it, will fulfill his needs.

It’s always a good idea to consistently hone your sales skills and strategies. If you need a good sales resource, look no further than Mastering the World of Selling.  It’s a brand-new book by Eric Taylor and David Riklan, and it contains one of the greatest collections of sales training wisdom for the 21st century that I’ve ever come across. It features sales strategies and advice from 89 of the world’s top experts including Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins, Jeffrey Gitomer, yours truly and more. 🙂  To find out more about Mastering the world of Selling, click here.

Do you have any dynamite sales wisdom that you’ve picked up over the years?  If so, I invite you to share it here by leaving a comment–there’s no such thing as too much useful information.  Thanks!

What is the VCP Process?

The key concept in referral marketing is relationships. The system of information, support and referrals that you assemble will be based on your relationships with other individuals and businesses. Referral marketing works because these relationships work both ways: They benefit both parties.

A referral marketing plan involves relationships of many different kinds. Among the most important are those with your referral sources, with prospects these referral sources bring you and with customers you recruit from the prospects. These relationships don’t just spring up full-grown; they must be nurtured. As they grow, fed by mutual trust and shared benefits, they evolve through three phases: visibility, credibility and profitability. We call this evolution the VCP Process(R)

Any successful relationship, whether a personal or a business relationship, is unique to every pair of individuals, and it evolves over time. It starts out tentative, fragile, full of unfulfilled possibilities and expectations. It grows stronger with experience and familiarity. It matures into trust and commitment. The VCP Process describes the process of creation, growth and strengthening of business, professional and personal relationships; it is useful for assessing the status of a relationship and where it fits in the process of getting referrals. It can be used to nurture the growth of an effective and rewarding relationship with a prospective friend, client, co-worker, vendor, colleague or family member. When fully realized, such a relationship is mutually rewarding and, thus, self-perpetuating.

This simple concept has made a bigger difference in more people’s networking efforts than any other single idea I’ve discussed. For this reason, I’m going to devote the next few blogs I write to explaining each step of the VCP Process individually. Come back on Monday to learn why it all starts with visibility . . . I guarantee you you’ll want to read this one!

6 Ways Your Referral Source Can Turn a Referral Into a Customer

Let’s say that upon getting a business referral, you simply take down the name and contact information of the potential customer from the referral source. Sometime later, you call the prospect and introduce yourself: “Hello, Ms. Prospect, my name is John Businessman. Larry Source recommended I call you.  I’m an accountant . . .”

Handling referrals this way, as you might expect, gets minimal results.  Your chance of converting the referral into a customer will be greater if your referral source:

  • makes the initial contact with the prospect (his acquaintance) to assess her need and, if appropriate, alerts her that you will be getting in touch
  • sends the prospect background information about you and your business
  • lets the prospect know the nature of his relationship with you
  • gives the prospect a brief description and endorsement of your products or services
  • arranges to introduce the prospect to you
  • follows up with the prospect after you contact her.

Unfortunately, if you don’t ask your prospective referral source to do some of these things, he probably won’t–not because he isn’t willing, but because he doesn’t know how these actions could make a big difference, doesn’t have enough information about you or your business, or simply doesn’t know how.

Make it your goal to communicate to your sources the actions you wish them to take and then provide them with all the materials necessary to accomplish those actions. If you do this, I guarantee you’ll get better-quality referrals that will more quickly turn into actual business.

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