The answer is YES. Master networkers know that sales skills are absolutely required for successful referral marketing. Those skills are needed in every part of the process – not just in closing the sale with the prospect.
There have been numerous businesspeople I’ve met over the years who are fantastic networkers and they think that just because they know how to network, they don’t need to know how to sell. They assume that people will like them and then, because they like them, their products or services will sell themselves. This kind of mentality is unfortunate because people who think this way often leave business on the table.
There are three steps in the referral marketing sales process where selling skills are essential.
To Get the Referral
From the very beginning, you must sell yourself to your potential referral source.
Remember, a referral is not a guaranteed sale. A referral is an opportunity to talk with, and possibly do business with, someone to whom you’ve been recommended. You still have to close the deal. You have to make it clear that you know how to sell, and that you can and will provide the products or services that you are expected to provide. And that the customer will be happy with both the process and the result – which will reflect favorably on the person that provided the referral.
If you are unable to make that first “sale,” your potential referral source won’t become a referral partner. They won’t be inclined to risk their reputation and relationship with the prospect and won’t do their part to sell the referral.
To Get the Appointment
Beyond selling yourself to the referral source, you have to sell yourself to the prospect to get that first appointment. Yes, the referral helps a great deal, but you still have to convince the potential buyer that the appointment is worth their time and is likely to result in a favorable outcome for them.
I strongly recommend that networkers avoid being aggressive, indecisive, or evasive at this point. The prospect has been in contact with your referral provider and is expecting a high level of professionalism and respect from you in your approach. Be confident that a mutually beneficial deal is in the works and communicate this to the potential client with your attitude and actions. Strive not to embarrass your referral partner that connected you with this person.
To Get the Sale
Once you have made the appointment, you have to persuade the potential customer to buy your product or service. This is the part that usually comes to mind when you hear the word “sell.” Your integrity is paramount at this stage. They should know exactly what to expect from you – no hidden charges, no unexpected exceptions, and no bait-and-switch.
The number one thing to remember is to make your referral provider look good when you are talking with the person they referred to you. You need to demonstrate that you know how to sell to the prospect in a way that doesn’t reflect poorly back on them. They want to be confident that you will consult with the potential customer, discover their needs, offer solutions based on those needs, give them some options, and you won’t force a sale if you know you are unable to provide a good solution.
Note that in referral marketing, closing the deal with your prospect is neither the beginning nor the end of the selling process. To get to this point, you will have made at least two other sales, as noted above. To build and maintain the long-term relationships that characterize successful referral marketing, you have to follow up with both your new client and with your referral partner as part of the total sales process.
Sales skills are important in business networking. Some people are better at closing sales than others. Having the knowledge and skill to generate the referral, then having the knowledge and skill to close the sale, gives the businessperson a significant advantage.
The sales process is all about keeping an ongoing relationship with the client or customer, AND with your referral partner. This is something that the best referral marketers know and understand. “Sell” is a word that should be in every networker’s vocabulary.
How do you sharpen your sales skills and/or keep an ongoing relationship with your clients/customers?