To Get Referrals, Stop Asking for Them! (Part 1)

1906h0447Some of you may read the headline above and think that it directly contradicts an article from a previous piece here on Market Leadership Journal.

Well…yes and no. Before I said that the biggest mistake sales professionals make when seeking referrals is not asking for them. I stand by that. However, what’s the second biggest mistake?

You guessed it: It’s asking for them…or more specifically, asking for them in the wrong way.

Let’s all admit it: we all do it because we somehow feel awkward about it. “Well,” we begin, “if you know of anyone who might also benefit from what I do, I would appreciate you letting me know.”

Or we say, “Do you know anyone who might use my services?”

The reaction is typically what? A blank stare. Or an exuberant thumbs up with the remark: “If I think of anyone I will definitely let you know!” End of story. End of the road.

So, what is the proper way to seek referrals? Don’t ask for them. Instead, engage your client in conversation. Throughout your relationship, you are likely to be hearing stories and anecdotes about your client’s daily life. Their life at work. Their kids in school. Their circle of friends. Their preconceptions about buying a house or a specific kind of investment because of an experience their best friend had last year.

When you engage your client on this level, they are not just opening up to you…they are putting low-hanging fruit out for you to pick! Have your antennas up. Hone your listening skills. Make mental or written notes about the people in your client’s circle of influence who come up through normal conversation. Engage your client and ask questions that fuel these conversations.

A warning: Even though your client may be casually mention in passing a friend whom you might be able to help, you may not necessarily want to jump in and try to get that person’s name and number right then. In doing so you run the risk of alienating your client, and shifting your attention and cares away from their needs, and onto your own. Instead, simply make a note of that individual for later reference.

By truly engaging, caring for and listening to your client, and by learning about the other people in your client’s life, you can, in a short while, have a list of potentially half a dozen or more potential new referrals!

So what do you do when you have such a list on hand? How to you harvest these seeds? We will go into that in step-by-step detail in next week’s issue.

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