When it comes to referrals, focus on quality instead of quantity
Whether you've asked for a referral or one has been volunteered, what do you usually do with it? Do you just say, "Thanks, I'll let you know what happens." Or do you linger a little longer to learn more about your new prospect? I always advocate quality over quantity. Coming away from a meeting with 12 referrals all at once doesn’t usually yield the kind of results you’d like, because the quality of the referral is usually not very good.
When you take the time to upgrade your referrals, you benefit in two ways. First, you learn the type of things about your prospect that will help you have a better conversation with them. You’ll demonstrate your relationship with their friends and you’ll be able to build rapport more easily. Second, when your referral consists of little more than a name and phone number, it doesn’t feel like much more than a cold call. When you learn a lot about your new prospect, you’ll feel more comfortable (maybe even excited) about the call and more likely to call the prospect right away.
The stream of consciousness
There will be times when your referral source will get into what I call a "stream of consciousness." He or she will just rattle off a dozen names (or more). Sometimes, he will grab his smartphone or directory of association members and feed you a ton of names.
When you catch a referral source in this flow, don’t stop it. Write the names down and encourage more.
After the flood is over, go back and identify three to five people you'd like to learn more about. Tell your referral source that you've learned through experience that you’ll be more successful in reaching, and eventually helping, people if you take a few at a time and learn as much as you can about them. Then tell your referral source you’ll call him in a week to learn more about the next "batch."
Questions to ask
Here are a few general questions you want to ask your referral source in the upgrading process:
- Why did you think of him first?
- Has he expressed any concerns in this area?
- Could you give me a sense of his personality?
- How do you think he’ll react to his name coming up in our conversation and my reaching out to him?
- What do you think is the best way to approach him, so that he’ll be open to speaking and meeting with me? How can I pique his interest?
- What is something you like or admire about him?
The golden key
I need to emphasize the importance and power of the last question. When you receive a referral, ask your source what he admires about his friend (or colleague, or family member). Then use this in your opening conversation with your prospect. You will be absolutely amazed how easily this opens the door for you.
Of course, you may have other questions specific to the situation that you will want to ask as well. These include questions that may help you qualify the person as fitting to receive your call in the first place. Don’t ever hesitate to make sure it’s a good match. You don’t need to be wasting your time calling people who don’t fit your practice.
Three factors will allow you to have these types of conversations with your referral sources: time, a relationship and courage. Manage your appointments well so that conversations aren't rushed. Some producers like to schedule special meetings just for this purpose. The better the relationship you are able to establish with your clients, the more willing they will be to have this type of conversation with you. And if you’re not in the habit of getting upgraded referrals, you will have to tap into your courage the first few times. Soon, it will become second nature.
By Bill Cates, CSP, CPAE
Bill Cates is president of Referral Coach International and the author of "Get More Referrals Now!" and "Don't Keep Me a Secret!" To learn about his free newsletter, boot camps, coaching program, video training program and more, visit www.referralcoach.com. Cates can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.