Stacy’s last request for a referral had caught her client off guard. He wasn’t prepared to give a referral and wasn’t comfortable doing so. But Stacy stood her ground until he coughed up the name and phone number of one of his associates. Stacy was excited. The referral she received was to Nadia Rivers, the owner of a local service company she had been trying to meet for some time. She thanked her client and went to call her new prospect.
She got Nadia’s assistant who, despite her insistence that one of Nadia’s friends had asked her to call, refused to put her through. Instead, the assistant demanded that Stacy leave her name and number and she would pass the information to Nadia. After months of trying to reach Nadia, Stacy gave up.
Unfortunately, this scene is played out thousands of times a day. Advisors get “referrals,” thank their clients and rush off to call the prospect but never have the opportunity to make contact with the referral.
Stacy didn’t get a referral, she simply got a name and phone number.
Why is this such a common result of “referrals?” This is because Stacy didn’t get a referral, she simply got a name and phone number. But for Stacy and other advisors, a name and phone number and permission from the client to use his name as the referring party are considered a referral. In reality, it is nothing but a name and a phone number.
A true referral
A referral isn't simply the name and phone number of a prospect and permission from the client to use his name as an introduction. By simply getting the name and phone number and running off to call, Stacy committed the most common sin advisors make when they get a referral—she failed to capitalize on the power of the referral and turned it into a warm call.
The power of a referral is its potential to open doors, to generate interest and to get an appointment. Seldom can a referral sell for you. That's not its goal—its goal is to open a door and 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 for your client. If the prospect trusts and respects your client, a portion of that trust and respect is passed on to you because someone he trusts referred you. However, that trust is useless if you fail to connect with the prospect.
In many cases, the fact that someone the referral trusts gave you his name and phone number is not enough to convince him to meet with you. You need something stronger than just your client’s name to open the door.
The power of an introduction
That something stronger 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 a person is asked by someone he trusts to meet a salesperson. The act itself places you in a different category from other salespeople.
- It demonstrates trust. A direct introduction demonstrates a high level of trust. Most people will not go to the trouble of giving 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 to meet with you. There is some pressure on the prospect to meet with you since he does not want to offend the client.
Types of introductions
In most instances, you have three methods of introduction at your disposal:
1. 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, though, you should write it for him on his letterhead and ask him to sign it. Let the prospect know what you accomplished for the client and why the client referred you. Give a specific time and date to expect your call and have the client ask him to let the client know his impression of you and your company after the prospect has met with you.
2. A phone call from your client to the prospect. A phone call is more effective 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.
3. A lunch meeting with you, your client and the prospect. 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.
Paul McCord is the author of Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals, and SuperStar Selling: 12 Keys to Becoming a Sales SuperStar. He is a sales trainer, coach and consultant. For more information, go to www.powerreferralselling.com.