Training Referral Sources to Generate Referrals for You

If you interact with your clients, customers, referral sources, and contacts with a referral mind-set, show them that you are a giver, help others, and continually and strategically give referrals, you’re modeling the behavior you want others to exhibit toward you.  By itself, however, that’s not enough to train them to give you referrals.

Contacts who are not involved in your strong-contact network may not be aware of what is involved  in the kind of true referral networking that you are conducting.  Often you will have to coach them as you go, letting them know exactly what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what they may expect from your efforts.

Let’s say you’ve heard about a colleague whose stolen credit cards have been used to run up some big charges: “Stephanie, I’ve been talking with a colleague about your identity-theft problem and have arranged for him to send you a number of internet links that will help you quickly straighten out your credit problems.  I also know a lawyer who specializes in this field.  Would you like for me to contact him for you?  I hope you’ll keep me updated on your progress, and let me know if there’s any other way I can help.”

Similarly, if you’re passing a referral to an untrained but potentially valuable referral partner, let him know exactly what you’re doing and suggest ways he can reciprocate: “Jim, I know a specialist who provides the exact services you say you need.  I’ve known him for fifteen years and have used him many times.  He’s good, and he’s trustworthy.  May I ask him to call you?  And by the way, if you know a general contractor who constructs steel-frame buildings in the Valley and can use the new kind of fasteners I sell, would you please consider giving me a referral?”

By talking openly about what you’re doing, you’re not only modeling the behavior you want from your potential referral partner, you’re getting him to think about it, which is an essential part of learning.  You’re also asking him to practice it in a way that will help him repeat the behavior later.  It’s not a guarantee that he will reciprocate, but it makes it more likely that he will get the idea and respond in kind–at first, out of simple gratitude; later, out of the realization that a continuing referral relationship is good business for both of you.

One of the best ways to train a referral source is to go to a professional referral-training seminar and take your source with you.  This way, you will both be trained by an expert and will be speaking the same language–the language of referrals.

If you have an additional tactic for training referral sources to generate referrals for you, I’d love to hear it.  Please share it in the comment forum below. Thanks!

Knowledge Networking vs. Referral Networking

Most people are involved in at least two types of formal networking groups.  The first is intraprofessional networking, or “Knowledge Networking,” as Megatrends author John Naisbitt calls it.  Knowledge Networks foster self-help, information exchange, improved productivity and work life, and shared resources, according to Naisbitt, who cited networking as one of the ten megatrends impacting our society.

The second type of networking is interprofessional networking: multidisciplinary professionals and occupational types who network to increase each other’s business.  In fact, the primary purpose of most interprofessional networking groups is to increase one another’s business through referrals.

In good interprofessional networking, participants get either the majority of their business or their best business through referrals.  Organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Jaycees, and BNI® are typical groups in this category.  Different groups offer different strengths and weaknesses in helping to generate word-of-mouth business and it’s important to look closely at the makeup and structure of the various organizations that you might join before selecting those that best fit your needs.

If you haven’t had much success in business organizations in the past, don’t let that get in the way of doing what needs to be done to build your business through word of mouth today.  The best way to begin the process of building a referral-based business is in a group or groups of other business professionals.  The only alternative is to meet one person at a time, which inevitably means you’re going to be working harder, not smarter.

The only people who are going to make referrals for you consistently are people who know you and trust you: your friends, associates, customers, patients, clients, peers, and family members.  Strangers are not going to consistently give you business.  You need to start spending time with the right people in structured professional environments.

If you’re interested in building your business through referral networking, here are four tips to help you do it efficiently:

  • Join several different types of networking groups and diversify your word-of-mouth activities.
  • Develop your company into a Hub Firm, a firm that other companies rely on to coordinate efforts in providing effective services.
  • Don’t be a cave dweller.  Get out and meet other business professionals in the myriad of business organizations which exist for that purpose.
  • The only people who are going to make referrals for you consistently are people who know you and trust you.  You need to start spending time with the right people in structured professional environments.

Do you have any additional tips or tactics which you’ve found particularly effective in building a referral-based business?  What has worked best for you?  I would love to hear your insights so please share your thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

The Referral Process – 8 Easy Steps

Much of what I write about networking and referrals emphasizes the circuitous, sometimes mysterious nature of referral networking.  In a deep, broad-based, mature referral network, where you spend a lot of time doing good things for others without looking for a direct reward, and where the good that you do winds its way through the system and eventually comes back to you in the form of referrals, it may seem odd to describe referral networking as a system.  But that’s what it is, and when it comes to the actions of generating, developing, and closing a business deal through a referral, there is a well defined, systematic process.

What is a referral?  It’s not as simple as it’s sometimes made out to be.  We leave college and go into business knowing little about referrals, because referral marketing is rarely part of the curriculum.  We know what a great thing it is to get a referral, because it generally means lucrative business with a reliable client.  We often think of it simply as a connection to someone we can call on to do business with or, if it’s not our kind of business, someone we can refer to someone else.

We understand that referrals are the best kind of business.  What we don’t understand is how to make them happen when we want them and, when they come in, how to get the best results from them and make them last.  The referral process is a system that has a lot of feedback built into it.  If you follow it for every referral, you will get predictable results: more closed business deals and a never-ending supply of referrals.

I have broken the referral process down into eight easy steps:

  • Step 1–Your Source Discovers a Referral
  • Step 2–Research the Referral
  • Step 3–Check Back In With Your Referral Source
  • Step 4–Meet With the Referral
  • Step 5–Report Back to Your Source
  • Step 6–Your Source Gets Feedback from the Referral
  • Step 7–Your Source Reports Back to You
  • Step 8–Close the Deal

I’ll  be breaking these steps down in detail in several different blog entries over the coming weeks so if you’re interested in getting specific guidance on how to execute each step in the referral process, be sure to check back in weekly.

Using the Power of Networking to Go Global

We now live in a fully global society, and referral networking has become a prominent marketing strategy in this global society for one reason: It works. The idea of growing your business through word-of-mouth marketing is a concept that crosses cultural, ethnic and political boundaries because we all speak the language of referrals, and we all want to do business based on trust.

Referral networking is a cost-effective way to get in front of new clients worldwide, and it’s a much better way to keep a business prosperous over the long term (because it’s built on mutually beneficial relationships between you and your fellow business owners). Referral networking is powered by the oldest and most enduring principle of human society–Givers Gain–the idea that the good you do will eventually come back to you in one form or another.

Earlier this year I did a live telebridge interview with my colleague Paul Martinelli on the topic “Going Global via the Power of Networking,” and we had more than 500 people call in from all over the world. To me, this truly demonstrates the worldwide interest there is in global business building through networking, and it’s a testament to the fact that networking will only become more vital to business success in modern times.

If you’d like to get in-depth advice on how to use the power of networking to go global with your business, you can Click here to get free access to the recording of the interview I did with Paul Martinelli on the subject.

It’s Not WHAT You Know, But WHO You Know–True or False?

How many times have you heard the phrase “It’s not what you know, but who you know” when it comes to determining success??  I’m willing to bet that over the course of your life to this point, you’ve heard it a lot.  Do you think it’s true?  Well, it’s not–it’s false.  It’s not what you know, or who you know–it’s how well you know them that really counts.

Here’s the difference.  How many people do you know?  Open up your e-mail address book and count the names.  You know as many people as are listed n your e-mail address book and probably a lot more.  Now, reach into your pocket and pull out your car keys.  How many of the people you know would you hand your car keys to?

Surely, now you understand that the importance of how well you know a person.  A contact is a person you know but with whom you have not yet established a strong relationship.  A connection, on the other hand, is someone who know you and trusts you because you’ve taken the time to establish credibility with that person.

Your network must not only be broad but also deep.  When you rely on others to cross-market your business or promote your program to a client, you’re not asking a simple favor.  For true referral networking, you need relationships that are deeper than mere contacts; you need strong connections, established well in advance.

So, beginning this week, focus on taking the time and energy to cultivate deep relationships by giving your referral sources anything and everything you can to help them succeed.  These will be the relationships you can count on when you need powerful connections because it really isn’t what you know or who you know–it’s how well you know them, how well they know you, and how well they know the people you want to meet.

Guardian at the Gate

When I started my first business, I knew I wanted referrals to play a key part in my overall growth strategy, and I began to realize I wasn’t the only one trying to get more sales through referrals.  A lot of other business professionals were trying to do the same thing.

So I thought, “What if I became the hub?”  If all the other people out there were trying to do the same thing as I was, why couldn’t I position myself as the gatekeeper of sorts between other people’s networks? Then, if someone was buying a new home and needed a real estate agent but didn’t have one in her own network, she would come to me and see whom I knew.

How did that help my business?

1.  It encouraged me to continue building and deepening my relationships with others, even if I didn’t think they could help me right away. Our natural tendency is to nurture relationships with those we feel can help us the most. But the fact is, we never know whom another person knows, so we should take every opportunity to build relationships with all those we make contact with.  Bob Smith might not be a good referral partner for me, but he could be ideal for Jane Doe, another person I know.

2.  Becoming a gatekeeper had a positive effect on my credibility. I wanted to be the go-to guy in the business community–the person others came to if they needed a referral for anything.  This meant that I would be deepening relationships with people I might not otherwise have gotten to know.  Since people do business with the people they like and trust, whom do you think got their referrals when they needed someone with my products and services? . . . Bingo! 🙂

When you’re networking, make an effort to build relationships with people who may be good referral partners for others in your network, and try to connect them with each other.  I guarantee if you do this consistently, you’ll get more referrals in the long run.

The Really Good Stuff!–Referral Levels 7-10

One thing we know about referrals is that it’s easier for your referral source to close the deal than it is for you because your source already has a relationship of trust with your prospect.  A referral where your referral source has already closed the deal for you before you even contact your prospect is the absolute best kind of referral you can get; it’s considered a level 10 referral.

Last week and the week before, I wrote blogs explaining the differences between referral levels 1 through 3 and referral levels 4 through 6. I promised all of that was leading up to “the really good stuff” so . . . Ahem! . . . Drumroll please! . . . here comes the really good stuff–referral levels 7 through 10!!

7.  Arranged a meeting. When your referral source arranges a meeting, she moves beyond the role of a promoter to that of a facilitator, taking the responsibility of working out the details of getting you and the prospect together.  This is a big-time referral effort.

8.  In-person introduction and promotion. At this level, your referral source is making a serious commitment of time and energy in support of your business.  By agreeing to serve as an intermediary in a face-to-face introduction, your source becomes an active business agent.  This demonstration of deep trust in and approval of your product or service substantially raises the referral’s effectiveness with the prospect.  Adding promotion further enhances its power, because your source is then actively engaged in selling your product or service instead of just facilitating a meeting.

9.  Assessment of need and interest. In this level, your referral source has done the work of assessing the need a prospect may have for your product or service and has gauged the prospect’s interest in learning more about it.  This enables you to focus your selling effort on needs you know the prospect has an intention to fill, and it allows you to select or tailor your products or services to provide specific benefits.

10.  Closed deal. At the top level, the sale has been closed before you even contact the prospect, soley on the strength of your referral source’s efforts.  Nothing else is required from you except to deliver the product or service and collect payment.

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