The theme for this week seems to be leads generation. So let’s take a look at it from a few perspectives.
First, why are you gathering leads? The obvious, first answer is getting names of prospects for your business. But you may be building a mailing list for a newsletter, or building your support or information network. Or maybe you are positioning yourself as a hub firm so that you become a referral producing machine. Let’s assume you are developing prospects.
Now, what activities are you involved in that produce leads? Making a list of all of them is good, then reviewing the eight sources of referrals: clients, contact spheres, power teams, people you do business with (or who expressed interest in doing business but didn’t), people whose business benefits from yours, referral groups, business and social groups, staff members and friends, and key referral partners. Hey, wait! That’s nine. Well, I guess you can’t have too many.
Let’s start with clients. There is no end to the ways suggested to extract referrals from your clients. My caution has always been that your relationship with them is the most important thing. You work hard to gain their trust and thus, their business. You do not want to damage that in any way, so how and when you ask for referrals will depend on a number of factors. Have you laid the ground work for asking? Have you earned the right? Some people are not concerned with these questions but most of us are. So it is important to prepare your clients for their role as a referral source. You might start with the idea that you will encounter a broad spectrum of attitudes in your client base regarding making referrals. This runs from first-date- spill-their-guts-tell-you-all-and-everyone to the more cautious “I don’t normally do that” client who will require a long relationship-building process to convert. How you go about asking for referrals and when you do it depends heavily on your behavioral style, your client’s style, and the quality of relationship you have built with them.
That’s plenty to get started on. Next time we’ll talk about making yourself a resource for your clients. Remember don’t come out of the gate asking for something before you have made the deposits. Focus on building relationships and the referrals will follow.
Building a productive network doesn’t require you to know a lot of people. It just requires that you know the right people. On occasion, I’ve mentioned “Drive-By Networking.” Most of us have experienced the Drive-By: Networking Man swoops in on your conversation and opens up at the cyclical rate with who he is and what latest and greatest product or service he represents. He quickly screens you as a prospect, listening only long enough to determine whether to go for the close or move on to the next victim. Cards and brochures are passed (yours stuffed into a pocket) and poof, he’s gone. They may follow up with a canned “It was good to meet you” email with an offer to set an appointment if you are interested in learning more about them. Networking Man knows a ton of people.
Then there is Smart Networker who networks with a purpose. They know who the right people are for them to know because they have clearly defined their market. They have a clear compelling message and are focused on meeting the right people. They get to know those people and seek ways to contribute to their success. Their follow up is personalized and offers something of value.
There has been debate about what is better with a network: broad or deep. Numbers are important, don’t get me wrong. Most sales people suffer as the results of too few names in their database. They don’t have enough leads. But going deep with people who you expect to provide you with referrals is what makes it work. Go deep with the right people and you’re on your way to good things. Smart Networker has a broad network but more importantly, has the right people in that network.
Received this “endorsement” a while back on Merchant’s Circle:
Review Atlantis Educational Initiatives Gladly Endorses Referral Institute Atlanta
| (5 stars)
|“Atlantis Educational Initiatives would like to thank Referral Institute Atlanta for supporting our foundation by listing us as a referral and networking partner on Merchant Circle. We are trying very hard to improve education for our children, won’t you please visit our site at atlantiseducationalinitiatives.org to learn how we are doing this. We need your support so if you would like to endorse, contribute or volunteer, please let us know. Thanks again. The Team at Atlantis Educational Initiatives Atlantis Initiatives, Inc. All Correspondence Should Be Sent To: Professor Paul Tynegate Piehler – Director firstname.lastname@example.org 174 Turnberry Circle New Smyrna Beach, FL, 32168 Phone: (386) 426-6898”
|Atlantis Educational Initiatives of New Smyrna Beach, FL on March 11, 2011
So I’ll ask again, “Who’s promoting who?”
I don’t even know where to start with this. While this is a very clever way to communicate with me and create visibility, the truth of the matter is that this is nothing about me and my business and everything about them. That’s not an endorsement. This is using me (and my credibility) as a platform for a solicitation for their organization.
I am on Merchant Circle mainly out of curiosity and as a way to stay informed about various “real time marketing” tools so I can better advise my clients. My observation about Merchant Circle is that most of their members could use a good dose of Referral Institute. While the object of the network is, rightly, to promote your business, I have witnessed more obnoxious self-promotion on this site than on any other. As soon as I accept a connection from someone, I immediately become a prospect. Let the selling begin!
Maybe I’m out of touch with the culture of this on-line community. Probably, because it seems to be a culture of hard-core, make ‘em an offer, cold calling, close ‘em, and do it quick. This certainly isn’t about building relationships and a business community that offers value or mutual support. I suppose I’d be doing the membership a favor if I connected with as many as possible and then spammed them with an offer to enroll in Certified Networker and 6 months of coaching.
Endorsements and testimonials are a powerful way you can help a business and are valuable in attracting new customers. It’s just better when they are about someone other than YOU!
By the way, I thought about deleting the organization’s name and any identifying information but decided I’d leave it in. They’d probably like the additional exposure.
There are three attitudes that are critical for referral success. These
attitudes affect how others perceive you, how they relate to you, and if they will refer business to you.
Critical Attitude #1
Givers Gain – build relationships with the attitude of giving to the other person
in ways that are meaningful to them. If you are always listening for ways to
contribute to the other person you will build great relationships and a great
reputation. Do you actively listen for ways to help others when you are
Critical Attitude #2
The Platinum Rule – treat others the way they want to
be treated. Dr. Tony Alessandra, top expert in the field of Behavioral Styles,
popularized the term and the idea that we have better relationships if we treat
others the way they want to be treated vs. the Golden Rule concept of treating
others the way we want to be
treated. Understanding behavioral styles is essential to truly adopt this
attitude. However, just tuning into the other person and matching their style will
make them more comfortable with you. For example, at the simplest level, if
someone is high energy and very enthusiastic, match them with enthusiastic
responses and a fast paced conversation. For a more reserved, quiet person,
tone it down and take your time. Do you put other people at ease when you
interact with them?
Critical Attitude #3
It’s all my fault – successful people take full responsibility for the life
they create. Since referrals come from other people, it is easy to blame others
for bad referrals, not giving referrals back when you refer them, or not
treating the referral the way you would want. If you adopt the “It’s all
my Fault” attitude, you will be more proactive in training others to bring
you good referrals, make sure they are motivated and know how to give referrals
back to you, and coach them on how to handle a referral to protect the
relationship and turn the referral into closed business.
Doing one-to-one meetings with new networking contacts has become a common practice and if you’ve been to a coffee or sandwich shop lately, you’ll see the phenomenon in abundance. Having participated in more of these than I care to remember, I can tell you that most people come to these appointments completely unprepared. Occasionally someone will check a Linked In profile or even visit a web site. But as far as having an agenda or goals for the meeting, well, not too often. Most of the people who have prepared for the meeting have prepared to sell something to me. But that’s another story.
I like the GAINS Profile approach offered by Dr. Ivan Misner in World’s Best Known Marketing Secret and that we utilize in the Referral Institute. GAINS is an acronym for Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, and Skills. Another, popular with some realtors is FORD: Family, Organizations, Recreation, and Dreams. Both can help guide conversation into productive getting-to-know-you information. And I like the idea of GAINS as a verb, as in, “GAINS your referral partners.” It’s also good to remember that GAINS’ing is an on-going process. We all have examples of the bar tender, mechanic, barber, shop owner, fill-in-the-blank, who chats up the customers and makes them feel valuable and appreciated. (Think Matt Capozzi at Capozzi’s NY Deli.)
GAINS is a tactical tool that becomes much more effective when used strategically. As part of an on-going referral marketing effort, it becomes a part of the way you do business. And gathering this information on a continuing basis demonstrates interest and continues rapport building.
Read a book recently, “Click, The Magic of Instant Connections” by Ori and Rom Brafman. They cite 3 critical elements in making connections with others: the VSP model. Hmmmm. (I like the model because it only has 3 elements. After only a few hours of repetition I was able to remember them.) Applying VSP as we GAINS our way through life can make these activities even more effective.
These days, our calendar is dominated by the International Networking Day event at the Cobb Galleria on 7 February. Getting sponsors and attracting participants is a huge undertaking, especially for a first-time event. So, like any good referral marketer, I turned to my networks to help us fill the room. This brought to mind strategies to activate my referral network to help me with planning and marketing the event.
In the new and improved Certified Networker III® we discuss 16 ways to activate your referral partners. These are activities that will support their marketing goals and motivate them to become an active referral source for you. Three of these presented themselves as ways that I might achieve my goal of selling tickets to our event.
First, Volunteering. I went to my Referral and Support Networks seeking people who could contribute to organizing and promoting the event. I was able to secure seven Volunteers to assist in various aspects of event planning.
Second, I solicited my network for sponsors. Sponsoring an event that a member of your network is conducting is a powerful connection to your referral source and is a major deposit in the Referral Bank Account. Deciding to become a Sponsor is usually based on the type of event and the target market it is likely to attract. However, a major part of the decision is the value of your relationship with your Referral Source and the opportunity to deepen your relationship by supporting their goals.
Third, I solicited my networks to buy tickets to the event, not just for themselves, but also for others. That’s where the Inviting comes in. Inviting provides an opportunity to establish or strengthen a relationship with a referral source. Showing that you are interested in helping them is a starter. And working with them to make the event successful for both of you shows them you will invest time and effort into the relationship. Preparation for the event may include strategy sessions that help you to understand who they want to meet and how they want to be introduced. What materials will you need from them and will you work the room together or divide and conquer?
Building a referral network that works takes planning and effort. Utilizing the strategies learned in Certified Networker show up as points on your Networking Score Card and ultimately, in referrals.