In "Lead vs Referrals" I talked about the difference between a lead and a referral and why referrals are superior to leads, but the question arises, "How do you get people to refer you instead of giving you leads?" The answer is purposeful and tactful coaching. The best people at getting referrals do not get them by accident. They ask and coach.
The first step is networking. You must have a business network that is actively looking for leads for you. They must be the types of colleagues that are in the right place. After all, sales is just two things: Being around the people who want or need to buy your product, or being around the people who are around the people who have the want or need to buy your product. Many people try to do this at the networking event. It usually goes something like this: "Hi, how are you?. Will you please refer me because I do x,y, and z and it's fantastic." This is technically selling which is one of the big no-nos of networking. See point two in "Why Networking is important and Tips for Success."
The second step is to ask for referrals. While this seems rudimentary, I find that even once people have built a network they don't utilize their investment. I talk to possible referral partners all the time who say they never get referrals, but when pressed, they usually say they don't even ask. Lesson 1: PEOPLE WILL NOT GIVE YOU LEADS OR REFERRALS JUST BECAUSE YOU WANT THEM TO. You must ask. And you must know what to ask for and how to ask.
This leads us into the third step, identifying your ideal client. I learned a long time ago that if you say your ideal client is everyone, you will get no one. Lesson 2: NO ONE KNOWS EVERYONE.
It is important to know in extreme detail who your ideal client is. This includes, what do they do for a living, are they married, are they male, female, young, middle age, what is their income, where do they live, and what events in their life have just taken place that signals they need to buy your product. This also works for businesses too. Identifying how big, how old, what do they sell, and what processes they will have just gone through when they will need your product. The key is that the ideal client is on their way through an event that you know that when they are done, will be thinking of you. They will in their head, already be having the conversation about wanting your product and this makes the referral process possible. Without this kind of extreme definition you will get exactly no referrals.
Once you have identified your ideal client, you need to coach your colleague what to look for, listen for, and say. Spend time telling them about your ideal client, where they are in life, and what they are going to be thinking. If your colleague is being properly coached they should be able to give you the names of their friends that fit the detailed description of your ideal client.
The last step is to coach them on what to say when giving you an introduction. It is important that they understand that their job is not sell or know the answer every question, but to recognize a good referral, ask to introduce you, and then provide you with the referral's contact information. Your colleague can not give a referral your number, and expect them to call. Because Lesson 3: THEY WILL NEVER CALL. Your colleague must get the referral's number so that you can call them.
In conclusion, this is how you get people you network with to give you referrals. I hope you look forward to my next post on asking for a referral from a current client. This is a completely different skill set, that is quite possibly is even more important. Happy Hunting.
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