The Trail: blog post for July 2015
by Jeff Cartwright
It’s easy to stay inside of our comfort zones. That’s why they’re called comfort zones. They’re comfortable. Escaping them is an uncomfortable task. However when it comes to business, things…good things…happen once we step outside of our predetermined boxes.
In this post I’ll focus on getting referrals, an area that makes many of you uncomfortable. This is because the perception that you’re “using someone”, or taking advantage of their company name within the community. Most sales people content themselves with gaining business simply through working hard and hoping that people connect them to other people out of the goodness of their heart. This simply is not the case. Most sales people haven’t discovered how to include referrals or the referral process, as I call it, in their repertoire. This is a problem. A problem I think we can fix here.
Absolutely the best way for you to gain new clients is by making use of your current clients’ trusted partnerships. These clients are ones who know you’re reputable, ones whose businesses you’ve grown, ones who understand what you have to offer. They are your best resource for brand new clients. And, you are actually tapping into the “reciprocity principle of persuasion”, from the research done by Dr. Robert Cialdini, Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University. In his book: “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, Dr. Cialdini proves that we all want to give in exchange that which has been given to us. Our need to “reciprocate” is a natural human tendency. The fact that you’ve given your current clients your expertise that has helped to grow their business; those same clients are waiting to give back to you what you’ve given to them. Not tapping into that resource is a travesty. I recommend implementing a 3 tier approach to achieving your referral. It’s important to “begin your request” at this first tier; where your client, I think, has the most skin in the “exchange” game. You’re asking them to do something at that very moment, that they would not normally do (remember ‘reciprocity’ and exchange, and that you’ve earned the right to ask).
Tier 1: Request a Face to Face Introduction
This tier requires that you ask your trusted clients for a face to face introduction. You can do this in a few different ways. You can ask if they know a prospect you’re planning on seeing. You may say: “You mentioned that you know Jim Johnson of Johnson & Sons Chevrolet. I’d really appreciate it, if you would introduce me to your friend Jim. I’d love to provide his company with the same level of service I’ve provided to you over the years.” Or you could also request that they bring you into a conversation with them and a new client at an event all of you plan on attending. If they agree, great, you’ve earned the first step in acquiring new business and have expanded your circle of influence.
In some cases, though, your client may get a little squirmy. This first tier may be too uncomfortable for them, for whatever reason. This is not something that should concern you. You should see it as a sign to move to Tier 2.
Tier 2: A Phonecall
The second tier requires that you ask for an introduction over the phone. Sometimes face to face introductions make people feel uncomfortable or stiff; however, the option of a phone call is a viable solution to this. If your client denies a face to face introduction, show that you understand them, and then ask if they’d be willing to make a call on your behalf and introduce you via phone. This option is more removed and sometimes feels like a safer bet. Phone introductions are completely doable, but sometimes people still feel awkward on the phone. I don’t know about you, but sometimes talking on the phone is a little…uncomfortable. Rather than back down after your client denies a phone intro, you need to (you guessed it) remain calm and transition into Tier 3. Remember, through reciprocity, you’ve earned the right to be there.
Tier 3: A Name
If your client hems and haws after you ask for a phone introduction, catch them at the quick before they can say no. Go with the next best thing. Ask them if you can use their name, when you introduce yourself to this new client. Say: “if I can’t get a face to face or a phone intro can I at least use your name when I call on Jim Johnson at Johnson and Sons Chevrolet?” This is where clients, in many cases, are able to oblige your final request. Honestly, in all the clients I’ve worked with, I’ve never, ever had one turn down this third request. It’s because if you’re a trustworthy, hardworking business person who is dedicated to your clients needs (and if you’re careful enough to read this and look for ways to improve yourself, I’m assuming you are) then your client will be happy to be associated with you. Your ‘referral request’ becomes a win, win, win! Your current client wins by reciprocating, or giving back what you first gave to them. Your new client wins by having you as his ‘new’ service or product provider. You win by satisfying your current clients need to exchange, and by adding a new client to your base of business.
Finally … you’ll be able to reap the benefits of stepping outside of your comfort zone and into a referral process that works.