Something very exciting happened to me during the last two weeks in December that I will share with you. I heard from three business associates who had gained new clients directly from referrals I made on their behalf. This was great news to me for a number of reasons I will share later in this blog. I’ll also reveal three lessons I learned about how you can drive more referrals to your trusted associates.
When I heard from the first two of my business associates, I was pleased. It felt nice to help out friends I respect.
But when the third one called, I thought, okay, something interesting is happening here. I did some investigating and learned why the referrals were so successful. I always thought I was a good referral agent but now I could finally see some tangible results.
All three of the business associates are members, past speakers or sponsors of the Institute for Excellence in Sales (IES).
A KEY POINT ABOUT MAKING SUCCESSFUL REFERRALS
After some investigation and contemplation, it occurred to me that I had previously been more conscious on getting referrals versus giving them. The majority of my clients and IES corporate members in the past have been referred to me from people who work with CEOs and business owners who are struggling with growing sales because their marketing strategies were weak or non-existent. For me, and I believe a lot of my peers, the emphasis is often on being referable versus focusing on the giving referral aspect.
For example, to improve my likelihood of more getting, I personally invested in learning from some of the top experts on the topic. including Bill Cates, who is known as The Referral Coach. Bill was a speaker at the IES in 2013 and will be returning to our stage in April 2016.
Charlie Green, the co-author of The Trusted Advisor, one of my three favorite business books of all time, also spoke at the IES this past summer. Attending the event with me were over a hundred sales leaders who learned a lot that day from one of the true experts on trust-based referral selling. He helped turn my head about referrals.
Plus, I make it a point to participate in many lead share, networking, and business development groups, which are designed to bring in referrals.
So I’m pretty good at getting referrals but what was interesting to me here was that it felt much better seeing the results of my giving referrals, not just getting them.
GOOD RESOURCES MAKE GOOD REFERRALS
The first of my referrals was for an executive recruiter I’ve known for over a decade. We’ve been in networking groups together and had met often in business and social settings. I’ve listened to her business pitch dozens of times and enjoyed learning about how her firm had a different spin on the recruiting game. Last summer, I received a rash of requests from sales leaders looking for a recruiter who could help build their sales teams.
This particular recruiter had stayed in touch and regularly responded very quickly to any recruiting questions I had. She freely gave me insights I needed. Therefore, she was top of mind when this rash of inquiries came in so I sent her name to all three inquiries without hesitation.
The second referral came from a speaker I brought to Washington to present at an IES sales workshop. Since the IES attracts a senior level sales audience, we are able to bring the top sales thought leaders and speakers to our stage. To make it even more worth their while to come to DC to speak, I frequently schedule introductions and business development meetings with good prospects for their services.
One of the meetings I arranged for this speaker led to a client engagement for sales training and in-bound marketing strategy. She was thrilled.
And in the third situation, a frequent attendee of IES programs contacted me with the news that her firm’s management team wanted her organization to be more sales-focused versus reactive. She invited me to meet with her sales leadership to discuss recommendations I could make for a sales training resource that could help shift the sales culture. This is a request I get frequently. Since I work with some of the top sales training companies in the world, I suggested a few that could make a big impact and presented their strengths to the team. They chose one of the companies I recommended and implemented a plan for a year’s worth of training. Everyone was happy.
THREE LESSONS I’M PASSING ON
The results of my referrals excited me for a few reasons. First, it felt good having companies come to me to seek recommendations on who the top sales resources might be. Second, it confirmed that the IES is a trusted partner for sales speakers, training referrals, coaching, services, and programs. Third, it deepened my relationships with some of my top sales services partners. And, fourth, it felt good knowing that I was supplying the companies that requested referrals with the highest-quality providers.
So here are three things you need to do to give more referrals.
- Get to Really Know the Unique Strengths of Your Business Colleagues So You Can Refer Them Properly: I’ve met many people over the years that are very weak in explaining how they are exceptional. I’m a “trainer”, or “a banker”, or a “commercial real estate agent”, they’ll tell me. Well, like Colonel Jessup from A Few Good Men said, “I’m an educated man but I’m afraid I cannot speak intelligently about you without knowing more about what you’re specifically good at and who you best service.” Get to know what verticals they service, what level in the organization they usually deal with, and what value they actually bring so that you can recommend them accordingly.
- Take a Break from a What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) Mentally: In marketing, we often hear that the customer wants to know specifically What’s In It For Me. That’s powerful guidance for anyone in sales because the sales messaging must accommodate that request. I get it. Makes sense since it’s a human that’s buying and you need to ensure they understand how you’re making their lives better. But in order to give referrals, it’s important to realize that it’s not about you, it’s about them. Build a comfort level around a good conversation even though you are not getting the gig.
- Cherish Knowing that You’re Helping Your Colleagues Grow Their Businesses: There’s nothing better than getting a good referral from a trusted resource, so revel in the knowledge that you’re giving someone else that feeling. You’re helping them grow their business and generate revenue. You’re doing something real good, my friend.
I’ve learned that there are really three things a person can do to make a colleague’s life better. You can feed them, you can find them love, and you can help them earn a living. I never truly appreciated how powerful it can be to refer business to trusted colleagues until the blitz occurred this past month. I look forward to referring more and more business because of it.