Referrals – Your Best Sales Advantage
Most people don’t understand the value of referrals even though the highest paid sellers around the world profess that Referrals are their primary source of business. In fact, these same sales supersellers will quickly testify that Referrals are still the best and cheapest form of promotion to any kind of business. So then, when do these professionals say is the best time to promote the collection of referrals, at the beginning of the call, or at the end of the call? This may surprise many. The best time to begin the process of collecting referrals is – AT THE BEGINNING OF THE CALL.
The same experts know how to:
- How to sell referral gathering to the prospect
- How to get the type of referrals that pay off
- The best ways to involve your prospect in referral gathering and prosecting
The prospect can even set up your appointment for you – if you’re smart enough to get them to do that for you. And if you work your referrals properly – you could possibly even eliminate your current advertising.
The Real Power of Referrals
I have been asked, mostly on a regular basis, which is the best way one can build a good customer base. The answer I generally give is the best business structure I know is one that is built mainly on recommendation. In other words – by ‘word of mouth’ selling. The irony here is that ‘word of mouth’ is the one ideal that appears to be the aim of every salesperson I have ever met. They believe that once word of mouth begins to accelerate within their customer base, so will their existing customers. But unfortunately, and on the contrary, this mostly never happens and generally becomes a gross distortion of the ideal they thought they had been aiming for.
So let’s stop dealing in ‘blue-sky’ opinions for a minute and quote real facts. Top professional salespeople are fully aware that if one relies on the spread of ‘word of mouth’ promotion throughout either the business or domestic worlds – very little ‘word of mouth’ business will be written. The reality is if the expected business does come in on recommendation, this in general amounts to less than one tenth of the real business that should or could be written if the appropriate rules were followed.
I’m sure that this fact may surprise some business owners who claim that their business grew entirely by word of mouth. They forget, however, that they still advertise their business in Daily Newspapers, The Yellow Pages Telephone Directory, do Leaflet drops, do special deals with clients for referrals and so on. But if one asks them, where the bulk of their business comes from, they invariably tell you – its ‘word of mouth.’ Yeah. Sure.
On the other hand, the seasoned professional is quick to tell you that his or her research indicates that the only time ‘word of mouth’ works well, is when you least want it to. Say if you are selling a product to a select industry group. If they are happy with your product or service, they usually won’t tell their business associates about it for fear of losing their completive edge. Conversely, if they are unhappy, they will make sure as many of their associates know about it as possible. Sad to say, but its true. In fact, research suggests that these unhappy customers and prospects will tell eleven others on average. So obviously, there is some confusion as to what ‘word of mouth’ can do and doesn’t do. Perhaps I should digress a little before I pass on the answers most true sales professionals already know of.
The late Henry Ford, of the Ford Motor Company, learned this rule very early in his career. In fact, he always associated ‘word of mouth’ advertising as only being an effective business promotional mechanism after customers and prospects had their memories jogged through other advertising first. Remember, Henry Ford sold more cars in his time than all of his other competitors put together. Ones perception would have to suggest his success was purely based on ‘word of mouth’ advertising, yet he had plenty to say on the subject.
Here is one of the comments he made on ‘word of mouth’ and advertising.
“I advertise not to procure new business, as I have all the business I can handle, but I advertise to remind people I am still in business. If for whatever reason they didn’t know I was still in business, they wouldn’t buy my product. The more I advertise the bigger the public think I am. If only they knew I advertise to appear to be more than twice my size. That is the key to my success.”
That same success is available to all the professional salespeople that work at creating the right ‘word of mouth’ climate for any particular product or service … and the most effective ‘word of mouth’ climate is always the referral. Not just any type of referral, but the type the professional can fully control.
Allow me to explain.
Statistically, the quickest and most effective way to build a favourable ‘word of mouth’ reputation, is to have others who have ALREADY BUILT THEIR REPUTATION help the professional salesperson build his or her reputation. In other words, the salesperson works at getting others to put business his or her way by their personal recommendation. And that is what real ‘word of mouth’ is all about.
Here are some hints to help you do this well.
- Keep in Touch on a Regular Basis
A professional keeps in touch with his or her clients on a regular basis, whether or not he or she feels they will buy from them again or not. But with this type of approach, the salesperson multiplies his or her chances of repeat business many times over. In turn, the professional keeps in touch by what people term as ‘social drop-in calls’ if only to leave them brochures they can pass around and/or to top them up when their stocks are exhausted.
- Each Call is a Prospecting Call
The sales professional uses these ‘Social Calls’ to keep in touch at a time to give their client a progress report on the existing referrals the client had passed on previously and in the process see is they can ‘ask’ for some more referrals, and surprisingly, somehow, mostly more referrals seem to materialize. How it works is, the better the developed friendship with the client, the better the on-going business relationship. Secretly, the prospect wants his salesperson to succeed and grow, this in turn justifies the confidence the customer showed in the salesperson on the initial call – and in turn why the client brought the product from the seller in the first place.
- Ask to Learn About Your Special Clients
It has been said many times, to ‘ask’ is to ‘flatter.’ So ask; ask about their business; ask them why they do things a certain way. They won’t get offended and hold back if you are really genuine in what you ask. Remember, they want to see you succeed if you strike up a good friendship. Then as they pass this information on, it will further build their confidence in you, confidence that with that additional knowledge you can look after their referred prospects even better still. And that alone will more than justify working along with you.
- Phone Your Clients when You Need Help
Learn to call your existing clients at times when you get into a jam, or when you need more help on closing a sale. You’ll be surprised how eager they will be to help out if they can. If you do this from time to time (bearing in mind, they are just one of many clients) this will suggest to them you are only human and need help from time to time. Besides people always feel better in the presence of someone they feel doesn’t think they know everything. And let’s hope you too never become too proud to learn and understand your customers needs.
- Keep Your Special Clients in a Special Book
Keep these extra special clients in a special book and carry it with you to every call. In time, you will be able to add the names of others in that organisation – including the names of secretaries, staff, wives and even children. If you learn of a birthday – jot it down, and send them a card on their birthday.
- Acknowledge Special Clients for their Help
Do little things to make your special clients feel appreciated. Send them Christmas cards each year. Go out of your way to make them feel special when you are able. If they help you get work – say thankyou to them within a week. This can be done in person, with a thank you card, or by telephone. Whatever you do, remember they are critical to the future of your business.
- Provide Excellent After-Sales Service
If you don’t provide excellent after-sales service, all your work, time and effort could have the gloss taken off it. Besides, why should your customer go out of their way to help you make your business grow, if your company cannot look after their needs adequately. But unfortunately, established salespeople overlook this one point more than any other. Why? Because they feel that once their business has become quite profitable, the customers will ‘come out of the woodwork’ – and some will, but the majority will come by way of the salespersons ability to work with his or hers existing clients. New business is the cream of a business, whereas the existing business is the foundation. Primarily, existing business PAYS THE BILLS, whereas new business pays for the EXCESSES or the LUXURIES.
- Now for Some Really Helpful Hints
For every good and polished presentation, there is usually one prospect who is just waiting to rub the polish from the professionalism you portray.
Here are some hints on how best to deal with situations such as this.
8.1 – Don’t Take Criticism Personally
Most of us don’t object to anyone telling us how well we’ve done – but criticism, that another matter! No it’s not! It’s just you being offended by another persons opinion. That’s right, you have become offended. The criticism was meant for the product or service and you became offended. So put it back into it’s true perspective – it’s not you they’re criticising, it’s what you represent. To diffuse the situation, listen to the opinion carefully, thank them for their opinion and let them know you’ll do something about it.
8.2 – Value Constructive Criticism
More often than not someone, somewhere is going to take it upon themselves give you some free advice. Criticism is a form of Quality Control. People may just be helping you improve and grow without charge. And that is the one thing you should welcome, not fight!
8.3 – Opinions Are Cheap
At the end of the day all opinions are valueless. People generally use the phrase “In my opinion” when they know they haven’t taken the time to delve into the facts. If you have the facts, present them briefly – if not, thank them for their thoughts and ask for the next question.