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Friday, February 11, 2011

3 Strategies for a Stronger Referral Culture

As you implement any training - use these three strategies as your framework. Stay true to them and maximize them, and you will be pleased with your results. It just so happens that the three strategies begin with the letter 'C.' Perhaps this will make these easier to remember. Of course, I'd love to visit your firm - live or via my video program - when you're ready.

Any success we have implementing a new strategy or tactic boils down to confidence. In the absence of confidence is fear, doubt, uncertainty - lack of action. The more confident we feel about a certain action, the more likely we will take that action and have success. So, success with referrals, all aspects of the referral process, is about confidence.
Therefore, it is your job to continually improve the confidence of your advisors related to referrals. Here are a few actions you must sustain over time to build the confidence of your advisors, and the outcome will be a strong referral culture:
  1. Script Writing - Require your advisors to write their scripts related to planting referral seeds and asking for referrals. Have them write them "conversationally" by imagining a real client in front of them. Have them read their scripts out loud and tighten them up.
  2. Practice / Role Play - Practicing will refine their scripts; allowing the advisor to feel and sound natural when talking about referrals. When should they stop practicing? Not until they have mastered their scripts. Amateurs practice until they get it right. Masters practice until they can't get it wrong.
  3. Role Modeling - To build the confidence of your advisors, make sure you and/or all of your managers master the art and skill of referrals. Demonstrate it to your advisors. Ask for referrals when you cover appointments with your advisors (unless you've agreed the advisor will ask).
To build a thriving referral culture in your firm, promote consistency of action. You must resist distractions that keep you from the plan. You must help your advisors sustain consistent action.
Here are a few ways to help with consistency:
  1. Set Achievement Goals - Ask your advisors to set an achievement goal of how many new clients they'd like to gain between now and the end of the year. This goal must be a stretch (not a goal that they'd reach anyway) and it must be realistic enough that it serves to motivate them. (By the way, I recommend your advisors have this sort of goal year after year, in their business plans.)
  2. Set Behavioral Goals - Now that they know how many new clients they'd like through referrals, they have to determine the behaviors necessary to reach this goal. These become their daily/weekly/monthly behaviors designed to produce results.
  3. Track Behavior and Results - Don't wait until the end of the goal period to see how they are doing. By then it's too late. Monitor their behavior on a weekly basis. See where their restrictions are. Coach them on how to remove those restrictions.
Accountability - Actually everything mentioned above contributes to holding your advisors accountable for the behavior necessary to generate a steady flow of referrals. Quite often, managers are uncomfortable holding advisors accountable. They take what advisors say at face value and don't probe more deeply to learn "what really happened" on a particular appointment. Give your advisors the GIFT of an excellent expectation. The more you expect from them - in a supportive manner - the more they will expect from themselves - and deliver!

Courage & Celebration
If you're going to create a "culture of accountability" I suggest you balance that with a "culture of celebration." At formal meetings and/or informal gatherings, celebrate the referrals that people are generating. And you don't have to wait for advisors to get referrals to celebrate. Celebrate the asking for referrals (and promoting referrals). Hold contests and other promotions - on going - to elevate the status of referrals and create an atmosphere of fun around referrals.
Help your advisors tap into their own personal reservoir of courage. Take success stories and turn them into teaching opportunities.
Building a thriving referral culture is not an easy thing. It requires a strong focus - sustained over a long period of time.

If you do not yet have a thriving referral culture, don't blame your advisors. It is the leadership team that creates the culture that will allow your advisors to thrive with referrals.
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7 Words to Help You Close More Sales

I have a very quick tip for you this week. However, don't let the brevity fool you. Use this tip regularly and you'll see your production rise. Send me your "thank you" emails when you do!
When you get on the phone with a prospect or a client - or meet with them in person - do you have a desired outcome for the call or meeting that is very clear? Clear intentions tend to produce clear results. Vague intentions tend to produce vague results.
For the rest of your career, before you get on the phone with a prospect or client, before you meet with them in person, think of these 7 words, "What's my desired outcome for this meeting?" (Or phone call.)
Would you agree with me that when you have a clear desired outcome for a phone call or meeting you're more likely to make that happen? The key word is "clear." Do you know exactly what you want your prospect or client to do as the result of your interaction? And if you do, do you create an agenda for the call/meeting that is likely to get you the result you desire? Do you craft the right questions that will get your prospect or client thinking in the ways you desire - and that are in the prospect's or client's best interest?
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One Simple Strategy to Get Referrals

One truth is a standout above all others: Advisors who give referrals tend to get referrals. Advisors who don't give referrals, tend not to get referrals.
Are you a connector? Are you looking for ways to make connections for others and for yourself? It's possible some of your clients could be doing business with each other or just might enjoy each other's company. Do you present yourself to your clients (and others) as a "resource"? Are you paying attention to other consultants, advisors, professionals, and small business owners who represent services and products that you may be able to bring to bear on your client relationships?

Give Referrals Properly
How you give referrals has a direct impact on how others give referrals to you. Here are two "rules of thumb" to follow when giving referrals:
  1. Give referrals carefully. Make sure the service/product provider you are referring is a competent and trusted resource. Take a little time to insure a good match.
  2. Make strong connections. Don't just give out names and phone numbers and hope the parties connect. Make sure the connection goes through. Giving out names and phone numbers is a nice gesture, but no value has been transferred until the connection goes through. When I give a referral, I always create a reminder that pops up in Outlook a few days later to make sure the parties have spoken.

When you take the time and effort to make sure the referrals you give get connected, others will do the same for you. How you give referrals models how others should return the favor.
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Saturday, February 5, 2011

How to Build a Referral Network Utilizing Social Media

Social media is a great medium in which to build relationships, trust, friendships, business contacts and most important to the readers of this blog, referrals! The best marketing for your business is other people saying good things about your business, thus referring them to you. This is why building referrals is key.
How do you best accomplish this utilizing online social media?
Your first step is to start by being social. You need to talk to people and then add something of value to their lives. Do not try to sell them your product or service. Once people get to know who you are and find you trustworthy, they’ll be more likely to be interested in what you have to offer. Make them want to find out more.
Where are the best places to build referrals in social media?
  • Twitter
    Talk, share, add value
    • Update
    • Communicate
    • Find more people
    • Wash, rinse, repeat. In that order.
  • LinkedIn
    Answers, join groups, be social
    • Join groups and share your expertise.
    • Answer questions in LinkedIn Answers. Show you know what you’re doing, create a solid track record, and create a desire to find out more of you.
  • Online Communities
    Message boards, forums, Ning social networks
    • Add a signature that says one sentence about what you do and a link to your website. Fill out your profile completely.
    • Add value to these communities, make people want to come to you instead of you chasing them down.
  • ReferralKey
    It should be obvious that since I’m writing here on ReferralKey, that I would recommend their system. After all, it’s free and helps you build referrals off of each other where you all have the same goal in mind.
The common theme that I preach here in social media is that you must add value to your network. If you aren’t adding something, what can you take away? Leave the members of your network with the desire to tell others about you and your business. Create raving fans; don’t be a sales man, be a service man.
This article was written by Kim Fenolio. Kim Fenolio is the Interface Monkey and New Media Super Hero at America’s Best Companies (ABC). ABC is a national-level small business association offering hundreds of discounts, advice, information, tips, and other resources on small business issues that can be used right away to start, grow, and manage their businesses more successfully. Kim has been personally working successful social media strategy since the 1990s and is helping ABC realize success in that medium as well.
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10 Referral Tips for Bagging Big Business

Many sales people, in the beginning of their career, have to scramble, scrape, and scour for every prospect they can get. The sales people who get to the top know that success all about networking. In order to network effectively you must ASK for what you want and also scratch some backs in return. One of the best networking elements is asking for referrals.

I think most would agree that referrals are a great way to grow business. So then why doesn't everyone do it? 2 Reasons: they failed and gave up or they didn't make it a routine. So what follows is a guide to make sure you have 1) a referral routine that works and 2) a way to Fail Proof It!

Referral Routine Simplified
1. Ask Every Client. Make it a habit to ask every client if they know someone who could use your services. Explain to your client how this is a win for them too. The less time you spend on marketing, the more time you can spend on helping clients with their needs.

2. Be Specific. When you do ask for a referral, don't be shy. Let people know exactly what type of clients you are looking for. Examples: "My specialty is working with clients who have complex technical needs and over 100 employees." or "Do you have any friends in executive level positions like yourself who need help with their stock options?" or "I enjoy working with clients like you and your family who need to save a lot in estate taxes. Do you know anyone like yourself who would also benefit from my services?" or "My business is segmented such that I work with clients who have a net worth over $500,000. I also specialize with clients who have elder parents who are in need of estate planning guidance. Do you know anyone like that who needs the type of services I provide?" If no names come to mind, ask permission to follow up: "Would you mind if I follow up with you in a few days? Which day is better to
call you, Wed or Thurs?"

3. Get Contact Information and a Personal Introduction. If a client gives you a name, ask for a way to contact them and ask for a personal introduction. Your client may want to get back to you on this. Be sure to follow up. Make it easy and enjoyable if possible with an invitation for breakfast, lunch, golf or other social activity.

4. Gratitude. Send a thank you note to your client the day you receive the referral and again upon making contact with the referral. A quick hand written note goes a long way. You will probably only get 5-20% of your clients who will refer you business. BUT, that's ok because those people will make multiple referrals if you show your gratitude. If allowed in your industry, you could also send a small gift if you feel it is appropriate.

5. Follow-up. This is just part of being a good sales person.
  • Follow-up with a letter to the referral as soon as you set a meeting with
    that person as a confirmation of your upcoming meeting listing any materials
    you would like them to bring.
  • Follow-up with clients who need to get back to you with referrals.
  • Follow-up with clients who make referrals to thank them and ask for more.

Fail Proof Your Referral Routine

1. Client Meeting Agenda. For every client meeting have "Ask For Referrals" be your second to last agenda item. It might be titled "How We Can Help Your Friends, Family, and Colleagues" or simply "Referrals."

2. Electronic RemindersSchedule a reminder in your electronic calendar to notify you each morning to remember to ask for referrals.

3. Contests. Create a contest in your office or if you work alone create one amongst your colleague friends in your field. Have the most organized person be in charge of the contest. Have some fun prizes like the winner gets his car washed by the person with the lowest referrals. Or it could be just a simple free coffee. Whatever will motivate people and make it fun.

4. Physical Reminders: Yellow Stickies. Keep a yellow sticky reminder near your desk, phone or where ever you are when you are talking to clients. Or try some sort of physical reminder of which only you know the meaning. Maybe a simple trendy red string around your wrist or perhaps your lucky cuff links will help remind you. Whatever works.

5. Charts. There are a few options you could choose: electronic such as Joe's Goals, excel spreadsheet, or a paper chart where you simply mark down your accomplishments for the day. Here are metrics that are useful to track:

  • the number of clients you asked for a referral
  • the number of referrals you got
  • the number of referrals you booked appointments with
  • the number of referrals who converted into new business
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