"Referrals" Are a Waste – Introductions are Gold. Referrals get your calls answered and open otherwise closed doors, right? Not really, explains Paul McCord, a leading authority on referral selling.
Rick's client was somewhat uncomfortable with his request. The sale had gone well enough--everything considered. But this last question about referrals was a little uncomfortable. His client was completely caught off guard. He wasn't the least prepared to give a referral and wasn't comfortable giving one. But Rick asked and stood his ground until his client coughed up the name and phone number of one of his vendors that might be able to use Rick's services.
Rick was excited; as the referral he received was to a company he had wanted to get into for quite a while. Better yet, it was a referral to Nadia, the company's COO, the exact person he had been wanting to reach. He quickly thanked his client and headed to his office to call his new prospect.
As soon as he was in his office, he picked up the phone, called Nadia, and got her assistant who, despite Rick's insistence that one of the Nadia's clients had asked him to call her, refused to put him through. Instead, the assistant insisted that Rick leave his name and number, and she would pass the information along to Nadia who would call if she were interested.Rick tried several more times to reach Nadia. He called and left messages. He took the liberty of emailing her. He sent two letters. Finally, after months of trying, he gave up.
Unfortunately, this scenario is played out thousands of times a day. Salespeople get "referrals," thank their client, rush off to call the prospect, and never have the opportunity to make contact.
Why is this such a prevalent result of "referrals?
"Because Rick didn't get a referral. He simply got a name and phone number. For Rick, and most other salespeople, a name and phone number and the permission from the client to use the client's name as the referring party are considered a referral. In reality, it is nothing but a name and phone number.
By simply getting the name and phone number and running off to make the phone call, Rick committed the most common error salespeople make when they get a referral. He failed to capitalize on the power of the referral and instead turned it into a warm call.
The power of a referral is its potential to open doors, generate interest, and get an appointment. Seldom can a referral sell for you. That's not the goal of a referral. The goal is to open a door and, hopefully, begin the relationship from a position of strength and trust.
When you receive a referral, you are hoping to build a relationship with the referred prospect based on his trust and respect of your client. If the prospect trusts and respects your client, a portion of the trust and respect he has for your client is imbued to you because someone he trusts referred you. However, that trust is useless if you fail to set an appointment with the prospect. In many cases, the fact someone he trusts gave you the prospect's name and phone number is not enough by itself to convince him to meet with you. You need something stronger than just your client's name to open the door.
That extra push is a direct introduction from your client to the prospect.
A direct introduction is powerful for several reasons:
• It is unusual. It isn't often that someone is personally asked by someone he trusts to meet a salesperson. The act itself places you in a different category than other salespeople.
• It demonstrates trust. A direct introduction demonstrates a high level of trust. Most people will not go to the trouble of taking the time and effort to give a direct introduction unless they have a high degree of trust and respect for the person they are introducing.
• It makes it difficult for the prospect to decline a meeting. There is implied pressure on the prospect to meet with you since he doesn't want to offend the client.
A call using the client's name doesn't have the power of an introduction and gives the prospect an easy out––he simply doesn't accept your call or declines a meeting. After all, the client wasn't really involved––you simply used the client's name.
On the other hand, a properly executed introduction virtually guarantees a meeting.
In most instances, you have three introduction methods at your disposal:
A letter of introduction written by you for your client's signature
A letter from the client to the prospect is the most basic form of introduction. Rather than asking the client to write the letter, write it for him on his letterhead for his signature. Let the prospect know what you accomplished for the client; let him know why the client referred you; give a specific time and date to expect your call; and have the client ask the prospect to let him know his impression of you and your company after you have met.
Mail the letter and then a day or two after the prospect should have received it, give him a call. Don't introduce yourself first. Rather, introduce the letter and client first, then move to asking for the appointment.
A phone call from your client to the prospect
A phone call is stronger than a letter and almost guarantees an appointment as it is very difficult for the prospect to say no to your appointment request while the client is on the line. The call gives the opportunity for the prospect to ask specific questions of your client and to get detailed information. Do not have your client call unless you are present––you want to know exactly what was said.
A lunch meeting with your client, the prospect, and yourself
A stronger method than either a letter or a call, a lunch meeting allows you to get to know the prospect as a friend before you get to know him as a salesperson. Like a phone call, it virtually guarantees a private meeting. Also, in a lunch meeting, your client becomes your salesperson and you're there as the consultant. Although a very powerful introduction format, most clients will only agree to do one, maybe two at the most, so use judiciously.
If you want to turn your "referrals" into real referrals, don't settle for just getting names and phone numbers. Learn how to turn those names and phone numbers into real referrals through a direct introduction to the prospect. Not only will the number of appointments you set go up-your sales will increase, your income will increase, and you'll find selling to be a lot easier.